Goodreads: The Inheritance Games
Series: Inheritance Games #1
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 grandfather’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.
I went into The Inheritance Games not knowing what to expect, but hoping for a puzzle-filled mystery that might be something like a YA version of The Mysterious Benedict Society. What I got was more romance than mystery, more character-driven than plot-driven. The puzzles prove not particularly difficult or clever. Even so, The Inheritance Games is worth a read, more for its thriller-like aspects than for the games it promises.
The premise of The Inheritance Games is that billionaire Tobias Hawthorne has left his fortune to teenager Avery Grambs, disinheriting his family in a surprise move that is revealed at the reading of the will. Among the disappointed heirs are Tobias’ four grandsons–two of whom end up in an uncompelling love triangle with Avery. Complicating matters is the injunction that Avery must reside with the Hawthorne family in Tobias’ estate for at least one year, or her inheritance is forfeit. Naturally, some of the family do not wish Avery well, so she must solves the clues left by Tobias to uncover why he chose her, of all people, to receive his money.
The clues, however, are not nearly as clever as I was expecting, both from the premise and from the enthusiastic reviews the book has received. Very often, the solutions are quite obvious and even elementary. For instance, Tobias might leave a message missing a single word, where the word can only be one thing. Since the book starts by suggesting that Avery must be some sort of genius, or at least really good at puzzles, since she plays chess all the time and aces an “impossible” physics test, I thought Tobias’ game would put her to the test. But I think any quick-witted child could play the game and win.
What makes the obvious puzzles even more frustrating is that Avery, the narrator, has a terrible habit of repeating all the information and the answer, as if readers must be dense. So if the message missing a word reads, “The sky is _____,” Avery feels the need to work through the puzzle piece by piece. She might say, “The sky is ____. The message was missing a word. We needed to find out the word to solve the puzzle. The sky is ____. Skies are usually blue. So blue must be the missing word. The sky is blue! Blue was the missing word! Blue was the answer! We had to find something with a blue sky.” This might be excusable if the puzzles were harder, but I really do not need Avery to spell out everything in excruciating detail this way. It takes away from the momentum of the plot, and really does make it seem like the readers are not expected to be able to figure out anything without having theirs hands held all the way.
I suspect, however, that many readers are not reading The Inheritance Games for the puzzles, but for the romance. The summary promises four magnetic Hawthorne boys to allure and entire readers (and Avery), and the plot really plays that up. It does not matter that Avery and the boys have zero chemistry and really no reason to be attracted to each other. The book asserts that the boys are amazing, and readers are supposed to buy into that, and the connected assumption that Avery must want to date them, as a result.
The strongest, most compelling part of The Inheritance Games is really the thriller aspect. Why was Avery chosen? Who is out to get her? Will she solve the puzzle and survive her year living with a house of people who hate her? Those were the questions that kept me reading, more than the disappointing puzzles or the boring love triangle. The book is worth a read. It is just not as clever as the summary suggests.