The Inheritance Games

Cover image of Young Adult novel The Inheritance Games.

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Book Review

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better life: survive high school, maybe earn a scholarship and get a job so she can stop living in her beat-up old car. The teen’s fortunes, however, change dramatically when a billionaire she’s never heard of dies and leaves her everything. But that unfathomable boon comes with stipulations: There are puzzles to unravel and games to play.

Plot Summary

When Avery Kylie Grambs’ single mom was still alive, the two of them had lots of little games they’d play when the household budget was empty. There was the Flashlight Game, played when the power was switched off; the Marshmallow Game when the heat was off, and they’d bundle together and munch little treats. And, of course, little Avery always enjoyed the I’ve Got a Secret Game they’d play just for the fun of it.

But 17-year-old Avery is now thinking that her deceased mother may have had some secrets that she never shared. And they may include more than just a deadbeat missing father that Avery doesn’t really know.

The story starts when Avery is simply going along to get along. She’s got some future plans. But they mainly involve surviving high school, maybe wheedling out some kind of college scholarship and getting a good enough job so she can stop living in her beat-up old Pontiac. Hey, her guardian half-sister, Libby, has an apartment that’s open to her; but with Lib’s abusive boyfriend around, living out of a car is the wisest bet for Avery right now.

Then, however, something completely unexpected happens: A polished, handsome guy, just a few years older than Avery, shows up in the school office. This Armani-suit-wearing teen says his name is Grayson Hawthorne, and he tells Avery: “I’ve taken the liberty of making travel arrangements on your behalf.” The young man’s tone makes it clear that this isn’t an invitation. It’s nothing less than a summons.

It seems that a certain billionaire named Tobias Hawthorne—the ninth richest man in the world—has passed away. And his will stipulates that the surrounding Hawthorne family members can’t read his final testament unless Avery Grambs is in attendance. So, when Avery shows up in the impossibly sumptuous Texas mansion of the Hawthorne family, they all seem as mystified by the situation as her.

But the mystery only deepens from there. When the will is read, it turns out that old crafty Tobias—a man known to be a master of games and manipulation—left only paltry sums to his family members. And to one Avery Grambs, he left the massive sprawling Hawthorne mansion and estate and the sum of 46.2 billion dollars.

All Avery has to do is move into the mansion, with its full staff, libraries, bowling alleys, gyms, secret passageways, hidden chambers and much more, and live there for a year. Do that and everything is hers.

Unfortunately for Avery, there’s one other little twist: The Hawthornes will be residing in the massive house, too. Family members in residence include the four Hawthorne grandsons: handsome, brilliant guys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. The magnetic but coldly perfect Grayson, whom Avery already met, thinks she must be a con woman. One of the other younger teen brothers, the charming daredevil Jameson, thinks she just might be his grandfather’s opening move to his greatest game: a puzzle to be solved, a riddle to unravel.

Poor Avery, however, feels completely ensnared, in an ironic way. For while she’s been offered an opulent life filled with literally anything she could ever dream of, a treasure to share with anyone she’s ever cared for, she also feels like this may all be a dangerous trap … and she’s the cheese. This could even be a deadly situation, unless of course, she can play the Inheritance Game better than anyone else.

Christian Beliefs

None.

Other Belief Systems

None.

Authority Roles

The story repeatedly points to the fact that massive amounts of money equal massive amounts of power, and while “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Many of the adults in this tale are far less than praiseworthy examples. And even those without great wealth tend to be manipulated by those who do.

That said, protagonist Avery remains levelheaded (except for a few times when she’s swayed by youthful attraction), kind and giving throughout. In fact, she really wants to focus on how she can help others with her new fortunes. She also wrestles with the reality that how she can help others must be vastly expanded because of her new resources.

The story also explores the idea that family loyalty is important. Though it points to the fact that the idea can be taken too far and end up being destructive.

Profanity & Violence

The words “d-mmit” and “b–tard” turn up. And Avery’s good friend Max uses lots of creatively crude language in her daily life. Max never uses real curse words in her frequent text messages to Avery. But she’ll subs in non-curse words for obvious profanities. For instance, she texts things such as: “Are you foxing with me, beach?” and “That faxing chiphead can go straight to elf!”

On the violence side of things, there are some perilous things afoot here, and some hateful school-age teens create situations that could turn painful, too. Avery harbors an overarching fear that someone in the Hawthorne family might want to kill her. And that intuitive premonition is born out when someone does shoot at her—barely missing but creating wounds that have to be stitched up. Libby’s boyfriend Drake is an ever-present threat, too. He gets angry and punches Libby at one point, giving her a black eye. And though Libby is a supportive sister and generally good person, she repeatedly goes back to this abusive guy.

Sexual Content

Moral choices are not a strong suit with the über-wealthy Hawthornes. There are a number of affairs implied in their backgrounds. And we hear rumblings that Avery’s mom might have been one of them. The four Hawthorne grandsons were all the byproduct of unwed affairs that their mom, Skye Hawthorne, had with various attractive men she met and bedded for a short while each. As such, the four boys—Alexander (17), Jameson (18), Grayson (19) and Nash (22)—are all noted to be very attractive young men.

Avery finds them all very appealing and lets us listen in on her mental conversations about the often purely physical effect they have on her. (On that front, she also reacts strongly to Jameson generally going shirtless whenever he gets drunk.) Even though Avery wisely reminds herself that getting physical with these guys would be “a very bad idea,” she still finds herself making out with one at one point. And Avery’s friend Max stokes those lustful fires from time to time as well, while pushing her friend to go for it in semi-crude comments. 

It’s implied that a love relationship between two girls may have been sexual. The girls keep their love affair under wraps until it is accidentally exposed to one of their siblings.

Discussion Topics

Being named the Hawthorne heiress introduces Avery to great wealth and a world filled with privilege. Can you relate to her desire to help others with that wealth? How would you go about it if you were in her shoes? How can you help those who are less fortunate with what you have? Should everyone give, no matter what they earn? Why? What kinds of privilege, other than wealth, are at play in this story?

Do you think we shape the world around us with the choices we make? How does that work with, or impact, our faith-focused choices? Avery and Libby love each other, but it’s a complicated relationship. How do you think siblings should react, challenge or support each other when one of them is making potentially harmful choices?

Almost everything we learn about Avery and the Hawthorne family is revealed though gradual revelations about their pasts. Do you think the past shapes the present? Does your past, especially your past mistakes, directly impact your world today? Can you do anything about missteps in the past? Why or why not?

Can you think of things in our world that could change for the better? What do you do about bad things that you don’t have the power to change? What is God’s role when it comes to things like that? Do you think He allows bad things to happen to people? Why? When you finished this book how did it leave you feeling?

Get free discussion questions for other books at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose.

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