I have never dreamt about characters or the twists and turns of a plotline like I did with The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. The quick, cutting witticisms and short but sharp actions between characters had my pulse racing and my mind working overtime. Intelligence was inlaid in every page, whether it was seen in the characters’ dialogue, ruminations, or actions. I had never heard of Barnes before I found this young adult novel, but now that I know how she can write, I will hunt down her every novel. No one can read The Inheritance Games and simply walk away, unmoved or untouched, from Barnes’ romance, angst, and mystery.
The Inheritance Games – The Summary
Avery Kylie Grambs has nothing to her name but a beat-up car and some postcards from other countries, passed down to her by her mother when she unexpectedly died. For over a year, Avery has been residing with her half-sister Libby, working at a local diner, and bringing breakfast to a homeless man whenever he lost a game of chess to her. She is generous and intelligent, but she is barely scraping by, living on nothing but hopes and dreams at the age of seventeen.
Grayson is the first Hawthorne brother to interact with Avery. He informs Avery of her necessary attendance of the reading of his grandfather’s will, and in so doing, turns Avery’s life topsy-turvy. One first-class flight to Texas later, Avery and Libby have the opportunity to meet the other Hawthorne grandsons and every other remaining relative of Tobias Hawthorne. There are the three other grandsons Nash, Xander, and Jameson, their mother Skye, and their aunt Zara and her husband. No one knows why Avery’s presence is required for the reading of Tobias Hawthorne’s will.
After some short and deliciously dramatic angst, everyone at the reading learns that Tobias Hawthorne has left virtually his entire estate to Avery Grambs. The two daughters are outraged and try to attack Avery, beginning with lawyers and courts, and ending with more sinister means. The grandsons, with the exception of Grayson, seem okay with the transition of money and power. But then there is the matter of the individually addressed letters—a game is afoot.
Much like Avery’s mother before her demise, Tobias Hawthorne had been fond of creating games with his grandsons. While Nash, the eldest brother, cared very little for such games, and the youngest was too young to compete with his other brothers, Grayson and Jameson competed like they were sworn enemies to each other. Nothing much has changed in the way the grandsons choose to play the game, except Xander has grown up and now has a great desire to win. Grayson is cold and calculating, but Jameson plays with fire and heightened emotion. Though both Grayson and Jameson are intelligent, their competitive natures got the better of them when it came to Emily.
Emily was a girl around their age who loved life and wanted everything, including both Grayson and Jameson. She died a year before Tobias died, and both Grayson and Jameson blame themselves, hating the other for their own mistakes. That’s where Avery, just as intelligent as the boys, steps into play. Romance abounds as it tends to do in teenage novels, and past mistakes are brought to light.
The Inheritance Games – The Analysis
All hail Barnes’ quick and cutting wit, sometimes humorous, sometimes dark and thrilling. When I noticed the author’s doctoral degree from Yale University, I smiled, thinking about all the smart wits who must pass through those halls. I laughed when I realized her degrees are in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science. How else could she write such an enthralling tale unless she had a thorough understanding of the human mind?
Barnes wrote The Inheritance Games with perfect descriptions of each character and their small gestures and actions. It was easy for me to visualize the entire novel as if watching a show on cable television or Netflix. A small example of a brief but dreamy gesture between Jameson and Avery follows:
Stop. I needed to wash—my hands, my face, the streaks of blood on my chest. Turn on the water, I told myself sternly. Pick up the washcloth. I willed my body to move.
Hands reached past me to turn on the faucet. I should have jumped. I should have panicked. But somehow, my body relaxed into the person behind me.
“It’s okay, Heiress,” Jameson murmured. “I’ve got you.”
I hadn’t heard Jameson come in. I wasn’t entirely sure how long I’d been standing there, frozen.
Jameson reached for a pale purple washcloth and held it under the water.
“I’m fine,” I insisted, as much to myself as to him.
Jameson lifted the washcloth to my face. “You’re a horrible liar.” He ran the cloth over my cheek, working his way down toward the scratch. A breath caught in my throat. He rinsed the washcloth, blood and dirt coloring the sink, as he lifted the cloth back to my skin.
He washed my face, took my hands in his and held them under the water, his fingers working the dirt from mine. My skin responded to his touch. For the first time, no part of me said to pull away. He was so gentle. He wasn’t acting like this was just a game to him—like I was just a game.The Inheritance Games, p.222-223
As seen in the above quote, there existed a strong romantic attraction between Avery and Jameson. The spice in their relationship alone had me swooning and cheering them on. And when Avery began to have feelings for Grayson—feelings about which even she was uncertain—Grayson gently evaded her advancement, claiming he knew how his brother Jameson looked at her. He wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
Finally, the mystery and intrigue that had thrown Avery and all four Hawthorne brothers together was above and beyond what I had hoped for in any novel. Barnes kept my pulse racing with the romantic liaisons and my mind full of the mysteries surrounding them. I found myself cheering on the main characters and getting upset at the villains for their lack of morals and their attempts to harm Avery, the girl who was given an unexpected chance.
If not for the political correctness inserted in the end of the novel, I would have given this book a perfect score. Even so, I give this almost pure perfection of a story a 9.8 out of 10. The wit, the humor, and the angst had my pulse racing at a rate which would have alarmed my primary physician, but I don’t care. I will continue to read the series as Barnes continues to write them. I encourage every woman to do the same, because nothing can beat the hum and drum of everyday life like new love and dangerous mysteries.