The 2019 hit film Knives Out quickly became a family favorite: a classic “whodunnit” combined with the stakes of billions of dollars to be inherited and an extremely dysfunctional family. For Knives Out fans or those looking for another thrilling read, The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes has a very similar plot—although instead of trying to find a murderer, the book is spent finding clues to understand why the will was changed.
The Inheritance Games begins by introducing Avery Grambs, a high schooler who’s barely getting by. Her home life is unstable; she’s either living with her sister or out of her car. Avery has a plan for how she’s going to start her life—survive highschool, win a scholarship and get out. Before she’s able to finish high school, however, she’s summoned across the country to the enormous Hawthorne House for a reading of famous multi-billionaire Tobias Hawthorne’s will. Hawthorne had left Avery almost all of his fortune, with the condition that she live in the Hawthorne House for one year.
As the book progresses, Avery learns more about the enigmatic Tobias Hawthorne and the house to which she is confined. When he was alive, Tobias Hawthorne constantly trained his grandsons to be puzzlemasters and critical thinkers. The House itself served as another puzzle with hidden passageways, a dizzying layout, and plenty of secret compartments.
The Hawthorne grandsons are supporting characters, each of them drastically different from each other. Two of them are disinterested in Avery and let her investigate without interference, while the other two become interested in Avery and why she was chosen as the heir to the Hawthorne fortune. Throughout the rest of the novel, Avery and the second pair of grandsons work together to reveal the truth behind the will’s alteration.
This book was an enjoyable read, as the writing was captivating enough to finish it all in one day. There was enough foreshadowing in the beginning for the ending to make sense and answer almost all possible questions. Avery is assertive and headstrong, which was refreshing to read. She always stuck to her morals and values, despite being thrown into a completely unknown environment. She was always there for her sister as well, even when her focus was primarily on the Hawthornes. She made a very capable female protagonist, and she didn’t need “saving” every other chapter.
One of the novel’s weak points was that the mysteries and puzzles were impossible to solve individually. It had the potential to be more entertaining if readers were given enough clues to put together answers before they were revealed. The writing was also mildly difficult to visualize and the mansion especially challenging to picture because the descriptions were either lacking or extremely complicated. The ending was lacking as it poorly executed the “culprit” that was revealed at the end, and didn’t have the needed emphasis of its importance. Although that was partially on purpose, it would have made more sense if Avery reacted more strongly to the news. Regardless of these critiques, the book was much more likeable than not, and nothing caused me to put it down and stop reading.
This book is an excellent read, especially for mystery and young-adult fiction lovers. The characters are all so different from each other so it’s easy to find a favorite and become attached to them. The sequel to this book, The Hawthorne Legacy, is coming out later this year, and there is some speculation about The Inheritance Games being turned into a TV series.