Title: The Inheritance Games
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publication: Sept. 2020, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Audience: Young Adult
You can find the book (or look up a local indie bookstore) at Bookshop.org.
The sequel, The Hawthorne Legacy, is expected on Sept. 7, 2021.
Puzzles, riddles, eccentric billionaires cutting their entire family out of their wills out of spite. A girl who isn’t some special, fated “chosen one,” but gets thrown into a world where she is, and everyone hates her for it. A family so fractured by their individual angles they might as well be a geometry textbook. They certainly have enough problems to fill one.
I guess you could say that the premise is enticing, the follow-through engrossing, and the whole world satisfyingly real and unexpected. You can probably already tell, but I loved it.
This is one of those books that makes me happy just by existing. Every page felt like the first bite of your favorite dessert, like a warm mug on cold morning, like the sound of your favorite human leaving you a voice message. Usually, even books I love have moments where I’m swept into the narrative to the point that I feel anxious about what’s going to happen next, or I’m so mad at one of the characters that I need to take a step away because it’s all just too much emotional effort for an activity that’s meant to be recreational. But not this novel. It’s almost like poetry, because each moment felt right, the kind of ‘effortless’ perfection that must take agonizing deliberation and patience to achieve.
Style and Content:
Jennifer Lynn Barnes knows how to hold an entire deck’s worth of cards in her hand without dropping any a moment too soon. She knows exactly when to let her readers in on a secret, when to open a curtain, a window, or a door into a character’s psyche. And we’re talking some really solid characters, too. They’re playful, with quirky characteristics and defining features that may feel a little simplistic, but that never become caricatures. You can recognize the speaker of any given line before reaching the dialogue tag, by the uniqueness of their voice. And yet the moment you feel you know the character, they do something you didn’t expect. But then again, in hindsight, you probably should have seen it coming.
It will come as no surprise that Barnes is one of my all-time favorites. I think it might be her control, over a story, its pacing, its secrets and layers, its world, and its characters that gets to me the most. Especially, I’m floored by her focused control of a story’s scope. From her Naturals series, to The Debutantes duology, I’ve seen her carefully bring in as many threads as she can meticulously and beautifully weave together–and no more. She doesn’t push a story to take on more than it can handle. As a fledgling writer, this is a level of discipline that I also hope to achieve one day.
I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t recommend this book to, and honestly, if you wouldn’t find this book interesting I don’t know why we would be having a conversation in the first place. Clearly we are irreconcilably different creatures, potentially from different planets. I think this story holds appeal for all readers, even the reluctant ones. It’s certainly hard enough to put down, and charming enough that few people could find it actually disagreeable. So yeah. If we converse on a consistent basis, I have already told you about this book. If we don’t, I’ll do it now: You. Must. Read. It’s for your own good, I promise.
If this book were a human, I’m not entirely sure we’d get along right away, but we’d basically be soulmates. Just the type of rivals-to-friends-to-more that are a little too independent and isolated for their own good. Eventually, we’d work out that one of the few things we like more than solving puzzles is struggling through an impossible one together. We’d realize that we can hang out together without saying a word, leaving each other to our own internal world. Also we’d bond over math and practical careers and the obnoxiousness and obliviousness of rich people.