I first heard of this book from a book club friend whose tastes and recommendations I trust so I added it to my TBR pile where it was destined to sit for weeks and months like every other unfortunate book that winds up there. But then I was looking for a quick, fun, read to get me out of a reading slump so I started scrolling through my Goodreads to see which book would help me. This book was the perfect slump buster, a terrific blend of mystery, puzzles, and overall entertainment I was looking for and I cannot wait to read the second in the series. Don’t let the young adult tag deter you, this is a delightful book that adults with imagination will enjoy.
From Goodreads: 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.
Any book described as “Cindrella meets Knives Out” has a lot to live up to and I’m so happy this one did. For this book to work, you have to like the characters and care enough about them to want her to solve the mysteries of Hawthorne House and Barnes succeeds here. Avery comes across as a typical teenager, searching for her place in the world, making mistakes like we all did, but with the extra burden of having lived a fairly grown up life due to circumstances beyond her control. She is the most fully realized character which makes sense as she is the narrator; if I had a small criticism, I would have liked the Hawthorne grandsons to have been more fleshed out as individuals. Grayson and Jameson have the most “on page” of the brothers and we learn the most about them throughout the book. However, it took a little too long for my liking to differentiate between all the brothers and at the end I still felt I didn’t know enough about the older ones. But, this is the first in a series so I expect that we will learn more about them as the story continues.
The concept of this book shouldn’t work; it’s unbelievable even for YA standards. What makes it work is that Avery and the Hawthorne boys aren’t trying to be master sleuths and detective abilities don’t suddenly materialize out of thin air. Instead, they use their puzzle solving skills honed from years of being asked to solve increasingly difficult puzzles by their grandfather. The puzzle solving throughout the story is fun and while there are no surprises and I saw the twist coming, that didn’t ruin the fun of this book for me.
While I really enjoyed this book as an adult, if this book had been released when I was a teenager, I would have been obsessed. As I mentioned above, there were a few minor issues I had that kept me from giving this 5 stars but overall I found this book entertaining and just what I needed. I highly recommend it.
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published: September 1st, 2020
Rating: 4 Stars