Blog Tour: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Today I'm reviewing my first-ever Jennifer Lynn Barnes book, The Inheritance Games, which I really enjoyed. Be sure to scroll down to see all the tour stops and enter the tour-wide giveaway!

Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult thriller
Format/Source: DRC, from the publisher
Status: Book 1 of The Inheritance Games series

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour, which was organized & hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. The full tour schedule can be found below. Please go give my fellow tour hosts some love!

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour. This does not affect the content of my review.

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why--or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man's touch--and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he's determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfathe's last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

The Inheritance Games was a complete surprise for me! Not only is it my first Jennifer Lynn Barnes book, I've tried this year to limit my expectations on books so I can go in fresh. Working out well so far, and definitely a good strategy for this book in particular. With comparisons to 2019 Hollywood darling Knives Out and kidlit fave The Westing Game, those are some big thrilling shoes to fill. They're appropriate comps, but please don't let them overwhelm you. The Inheritance Games is its own cool story!

The first thing that really drew me in was Avery. With first person narration, it's usually hard to get a handle on the main character without awkward info dumps because who really goes around describing themselves. But boom boom boom page 1 Jennifer starts laying out the groundwork for us to get to know Avery. She loves her mom and her sister, she's generous, she's smart but doesn't put in all her effort in order to save energy for other projects, she's tenacious, she stands up for herself, and she sticks to her guns. All of these are great traits for a teen girl about to inherit somewhere around 42 billion dollars and have to fight people over it. This characterization was consistent throughout the book, which I really appreciate. Granted, I think all of us would maybe do something wild if we had a grand inheritance, but I like that Avery is a little cautious since she's trying to figure out the mystery of Tobias Hawthorne. Yet I liked that she considers the money and assets hers and works at keeping it. YES, GIRL, TAKE WHAT'S YOURS.

The four Hawthorne boys are maybe a little less well-rounded as each of them seems to have one defining personality trait that informs us who they are (Nash is the motorcycle cowboy, Grayson is the cold perfectionist, Jameson is the adrenaline-fueled rebel, Xander is the goofy baby). These facades do crack a little so I'm hoping this was an intentional choice, caused by how little the boys and Avery know each other and Jennifer wanting to play up the mystery. These roles begin slipping some by the end of Inheritance Games so I'm really hoping the sequel will continue to delve into who these boys are. One of my favorite moments was when Xander speaks frankly about being biracial when his brothers are all white. For just a moment, we see a character who is not merely a goofy little nerd, the sweet baby brother who is a bit hapless. I really liked that glimpse.

I was often reminded of Ally Carter's books while reading The Inheritance Games. I don't read mysteries or thrillers very often, but I can't think of any other books that combine extreme glamour with caper shenanigans. The Inheritance Games is part extreme wish fulfillment—inheriting a bonkers amount of money, a cool house with All The Amenities (including bowing alley, spa, and six libraries), a couple makeovers, black-tie galas, etc—part whodunit (or maybe "whydonit" would be more accurate?). This comparison is a real compliment to Jennifer because Ally's books are always such FUN. They're elegant and charming high society fanciness but then gripping high-stakes action and drama. I would have liked a smidge more action in The Inheritance Games, but I was really satisfied with the balance.

Like Knives Out, Clue, or the thriller miniseries Harper's Island, The Inheritance Games boasts a large and varied cast. In addition to Avery and the Hawthorne boys, there's her sister, the boys' mom, aunt, and uncle, a Mean Girl from school, a lawyer, a bodyguard, an older couple of employees, a maid, the sister's ex... lots of... They're not suspects, exactly, but all of them hold secrets, including information needed to solve the big question: why Mr. Hawthorne left his estate to Avery, or smaller questions such as what's the deal with the Hawthorne boys and what secrets did Avery's mom have? I love this lineup of fringe characters, and even though there are a lot to keep track of, it shouldn't be difficult. These characters weave in and out of scenes, dropping morsels of information to help Avery (and the reader) put the pieces together.

A couple small negatives: 1. I wish there were more clues for the reader to solve, not just Avery. I love a book that can really engage the reader with the mystery separately than the main character. The Westing Game did that very well, but I think there might be limits since that was a close third narration that switched among the cast, and we are in first person with Avery. Still, I'd love more actual on-page puzzles, like the box (you'll know what I mean when you get there). 2. There's a love triangle set up here, and (this is going to be shocking to you because I love romance) I think it's unnecessary. I found it *gulp* distracting in a not-great way. And I don't necessarily mean just the love-triangle. I think this book could have gone romance free and been fine. I don't think for these characters romance is the way to bring them together.

My overall impression is very very positive. I was really entertained, the twists bog and small kept me engaged foe "just one more page", and I always wanted to know more. I think The Inheritance Games is a solid setup for this series, and I'm really looking forward to a thrilling finale with book 2. There's no Chris Evans in a holey cable-knit sweater, but if you're looking for those Knives Out vibes in a YA, this story is going to get you there. I know I said don't raise your expectations too high, but The Inheritance Games really does recall that feel of Marta busting up the Thrombey family's dysfunctional privilege in an oh-so-satisfying way. Only this time it's a bunch of teen boys in Texas.

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About the Author:
Jennifer Lynn Barnes (who mostly goes by Jen) is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed young adult novels. She has advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science, including graduate degrees from Cambridge University, where she was a Fulbright Scholar, and Yale University, where she received her Ph.D. in 2012. Jen wrote her first published novel when she was nineteen-years-old and sold her first five books while still in college. In additional to writing YA novels, Jen has also written original pilot scripts for television networks like USA and MTV, and she is one of the world's leading experts on the psychology of fandom and the cognitive science of fiction and the imagination more broadly. Jen is an Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma, where she holds a dual appointment in Psychology and Professional Writing.

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3 winners will receive a finished copy of The Inheritance Games. Open to the US only.