Thursday, February 10, 2022

The Inheritance Games

Sometimes, I miss things. Thought I'd read this one, but when a student suggested it to me, I realized that I was conflating this book with de la Cruz' Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy, which is NOTHING like this book. They just have a sort of similar cover. Thank you, Ali, for recommending this one!

Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. The Inheritance Games
September 1st 2020 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Public Library Copy

Avery Grambs doesn't have a great home life; she's being raised by an slightly older half sister, Libby, after the death of her mother. The girls' father isn't too interested in them. Out of the blue, Avery gets a letter that she has been named as a beneficiary in the will of billionaire Tobias Hawthorne and must attend the reading. She and Libby are flown to Texas, and soon find out that Avery gets a whole lot of money as long as certain requirements are met. She has to live in the house for a year, and put up with the other relatives who didn't get very much. These include four boys who are about her age. She is enrolled in their private school, but this doesn't shield her from all of the public speculation over her new found wealth and the reasons for it. Thea, who is vaguely related, tries to help her through school, and Avery works on the various mysteries that Tobias has left with the boys. Tobias liked to play games with the boys, so they are all aware of his type of clues, although some of them find them more interesting than others. There is also the mystery of family friend and school mate, Emily, who died on the estate. There are a variety of threats, including Libby's former boyfriend, Drake, disinherited and unhappy relatives, and the press and paparazzi. Will Avery be able to figure out why she was named in the will, and will she be able to survive?
Strengths: Don't all middle grade and young adult readers secretly wish they would come into a ton of money? Live in a mansion? Go to a private school? Add a mystery on top of it, and this is just perfect. Avery is an appealing character who is loyal to her half sister and trying desperately to make a success of her life. She's also intrigued by the mystery and willing to sort through all of the clues to figure it out. The Hawthorne's are privileged and a tiny bit evil, but not overly so, and the reaction that Avery gets seems realistic. There are plenty of details about her new posh life, and the end of the book certainly had me reserving the second book in the series! My favorite thing might have been that this was a great Young Adult title, but also middle grade appropriate. Fifteen years ago, these were a lot easier to find. I also had more readers that wanted them. Sigh. 
Weaknesses: I could not for the life of me keep the four boys straight. This might be more a function of my attention to detail than their depiction, because they all were a bit different. Just could not focus on what set them apart. Should have, since one of them kisses her.
What I really think: I've been a fan of Barnes' work since Raised by Wolves (2010) and Tattoo (2007) (remember the cover trend of low rise jeans and torso-only pictures?), and her The Lovely and the Lost  (2019) and The Fixer (2015) do really well in my school with readers who like more Young Adult books. I adored the fake swearing (fox-faxing elf!) and appreciated that Barnes was sensitive to young readers but also very creative! Definitely purchasing the series and can't wait until the third book comes out in August 2022.

Ms. Yingling

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