Young Adult Reads: The Inheritance Games series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is an acclaimed writer of more than a dozen young adult novels. She wrote her first novel when she was 19 and sold her first five novels when she was still in college. Jen holds advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science, as well as graduate degrees from Cambridge University. She was a Fulbright Scholar at Cambridge as well. Jen also received her PhD from Yale University in 2012. In case you aren’t impressed enough already, Jen has written multiple pilot scripts for television networks. She is also considered a leading expert on the psychology of fandom as well as the cognitive science of fiction and the imagination. In addition to her work as an author, Jen is an Associate Professor at the University of Oklahoma where she teaches in both Psychology and Professional Writing.

Author photograph © Kim Haynes Photography

“Everything’s a game, Avery Grambs. The only thing we get to decide in this life is if we play to win.”
― Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Inheritance Games

The Inheritance Games is the first book in the series of the same name. This book was recommended to me by our teen librarian and oh, she was so right that I would enjoy this book! Let’s dive in.

Avery Grambs is brilliant. Her mind has helped her survive high school so far and if she’s lucky, she will hopefully win a scholarship and escape the crappy town where she lives. All of her plans change when she is called to the office to find a dapper young man telling her that her life is about to change.

Flying off to Texas with her older sister Libby, Avery finds herself ensconced in the lives of the mysterious Hawthorne family. Avery soon learns that billionaire Tobias Hawthorne has left Avery virtually his entire fortune – and his family almost nothing. Avery didn’t even know Tobias Hawthorne, so why would he leave his entire billion dollar fortune to her? Avery must live in Hawthorne House for a year in order to inherit, a rule that doesn’t seem like much at first, but the longer she stays, the more daunting it becomes.

Hawthorne House is massive – full of secret passages, as well as riddles, puzzles, and codes hidden everywhere. The entire Hawthorne family also lives in Hawthorne House and they are not pleased. They see Avery as an unnecessary interloper, but also as a sort of clue to the inner workings of Tobias Hawthorne’s last wishes. Avery frequently finds herself butting heads with the four Hawthorne grandsons: handsome, dangerous, magnetic, and brilliant boys who all thought they would inherit billions one day. They see her as a con-woman, a teenager who must have known their grandfather. Others see her as a puzzle to be solved. After all, Tobias Hawthorne’s deep love of puzzles, riddles, and codes permeated every part of his living life, so adding them to his will seems exactly like something he would do. Avery is thrust into a dangerous world of wealth of privilege where in order to survive, she will have to play Tobias’s game.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Inheritance Games series

    1. The Inheritance Games (2020)
    2. The Hawthorne Legacy (2021)
    3. The Final Gambit (2022)

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt was too young to remember the terrifying time she spent at Baneberry Hall, the expansive Victorian mansion her parents purchased in rural Vermont nearly 25 years earlier.  Maggie, along with her parents Ewan and Jess, lived at Baneberry Hall for only three weeks before sheer terror drove them to flee in the middle of the night.  Now nearly 30, Maggie has to face the reality of not only the recent death of her father, but yet again she has to face the skepticism and criticism regarding his best selling book, House of Horrors.  Her father’s book detailed the paranormal activity and deep secrets of the home’s history.  Author Riley Sager merges the past and present as well as the suspenseful and supernatural in Home Before Dark.

On her father’s deathbed she learns that she is the new owner of Baneberry Hall.  As a restorer of old homes, Maggie’s goal is to make the needed updates and sell the home as quickly as possible.  Upon moving into the house temporarily, Maggie begins to  doubt that her father invented many of the stories detailed in House of Horrors.  She begins to meet many of the townspeople portrayed in his book.  They have long memories and still harbor mixed emotions toward her family and the book.  As odd occurrences begin to spook Maggie, she begins to question everything that she has doubted her entire life – are there sinister evil spirits in Baneberry Hall or did her father invent the phenomenons that he claimed were true?

Home Before Dark is the second Riley Sager book that I have read and have thoroughly enjoyed both titles.  I would highly recommend his books if you enjoy the psychological suspense genre peppered with a little horror and supernatural elements.  In addition to the print book, Home Before Dark is also available as an eBook through Overdrive.

 

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Reading is such an extraordinary way to escape reality, and distancing ourselves from the anxieties and uncertainties in our lives is so important for our health and well-being. One hidden gem I have recently reread (for the third time!) and would highly recommend is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. This book journeys back-and-forth in time, place, and perspective, and features the voices of several young women who are bound by a century-old mystery.

Beginning in 1913 in Cornwall, England, this novel revolves around a young girl who is placed on a ship to Australia and arrives with nothing but a suitcase: not even a name. Twenty-one years later, this young girl called Nell discovers a secret that upends her entire world, leading her to question her identity and embark on a journey to discover who she really is.

The story then follows the narrative of Cassandra, Nell’s granddaughter, who inherits an estate in Cornwall upon her grandmother’s death. Not only was Cassandra unaware of the existence of this estate, she also never knew Nell had visited Cornwall, let alone planned to live there. Upon receiving this inheritance, Cassandra picks up the loose threads Nell left behind to unravel the mystery of her grandmother’s life, learning a lot about herself along the way. While Nell and Cassandra are the two focal characters in this story, readers also experience the journey of several other lives that are inextricably intertwined with theirs.

Filled with secrets and revelations that will keep you guessing until the very end, this novel features a mysterious, winding storyline; beautiful, elegant language; and intricate, relatable character development. On top of that, there is a dark book of fairy tales and a secret garden (I can never resist a secret garden!). Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to be whisked away to a forgotten garden in Cornwall or immersed in a multi-generational story brimming with family secrets, mystery, and discovery. This book is also available as an eBook:

The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware knows how to write a novel full of twists. Bonus: if you listen to the audiobook version of really any of her books, you will be treated to some pretty neat accents. The Death of Mrs. Westaway, her latest book, is dark, dramatic, mysterious, and full of family drama.

Hal reads tarot cards on Brighton pier, a job that does not pay the bills very well. This makes it hard for her to afford food, rent, etc. Hal’s mother used to read tarot cards, so after she died a few years earlier, Hal easily slipped into the job she had watched her mother do for years. Struggling to make ends meet, Hal is at her wits end when a mysterious letter arrives detailing that she has been bequeathed a large inheritance. Reading said letter, Hal knows that this can’t possible be true, but the timing of the letter seems like a gift. She decides to accept the inheritance and head to the giant, cold, and gloomy Trepassen house. Leaving for Trepassen, Hal knows that doing so is a mistake. Having taken a loan from a loan shark with massive interest, Hal also knows that she has no other options to even begin paying back what she owes without taking this inheritance. Onward she goes.

Traveling down to the English coast, Hal pours over the letter looking for clues about the family that she is heading to meet. She is at a loss as to how to introduce herself, but knows that the cold-reading skills she has honed as a tarot card reader should help her claim the money and trick the others. Arriving amidst rain, Hal is led into the funeral of the deceased. Observing family and friends, Hal begins to feel that something is off with the whole situation. Something is just not right.

Following the family back to Trepassen house, Hal gets her first look at this massive, cold, and dour house. Just looking at the place, Hal feels like there are many, many secrets hidden within the walls. The family is both tight-lipped and easy to share, a concept that throws Hal off. Left to sleep in a tiny bedroom at the very top of the house by herself, Hal and the others begin to sort through the messiness of the deceased’s will. As they get further and further involved, the wrongness that Hal initially felt grows stronger as the situation begins to spiral more out of her control. Not knowing who to trust nor who is telling the truth, Hal begins her own investigation into what is really happening. This novel reads like a bit of a detective story with Ware knowing how to spin a crafty and spooky atmosphere rich with crime, gothic, and murderous twists.


This book is also available in the following formats: