The Inheritance Games Summary, Characters and Themes

“The Inheritance Games” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a young adult mystery novel, first published in 2020. 

This story centers around Avery Kylie Grambs, a high school junior from New Castle, Connecticut. Avery’s life, marked by the absence of her parents and financial struggles, takes an unexpected turn when she becomes the chief beneficiary of a billion-dollar fortune left by the enigmatic Texas billionaire, Tobias Hawthorne.

Full Summary

Despite never recalling meeting Hawthorne, Avery is thrust into a world of wealth and mystery. The condition to claim her inheritance: live for a year in the sprawling Hawthorne House, alongside the disgruntled Hawthorne family, including Tobias’s four grandsons – Nash, Grayson, Jameson, and Alexander (Xander). 

Each grandson, charismatic in his own right, draws Avery into the complex dynamics of the Hawthorne legacy.

The heart of the story lies in Avery’s quest to unravel why Tobias chose her for his fortune. She delves into a series of clues left by Tobias, uncovering dark family secrets and tragedies, including the mysterious disappearance of Tobias’s son Toby in a fire two decades ago. 

Avery’s journey is fraught with danger, as she faces hostility from the Hawthornes and external threats to her life, all stemming from her unexpected inheritance.

Romance intertwines with mystery as Avery finds herself drawn to two of the Hawthorne brothers, Grayson and Jameson, adding emotional depth to her perilous adventure

The plot thickens with the revelation that Avery had a fleeting encounter with Tobias as a child and that her chess partner, Harry, is actually the presumed-dead Toby, Tobias’s son.


  1. Avery Kylie Grambs: The protagonist of the story, Avery is a smart, resourceful high school junior with a talent for numbers and games like chess. Her life is upended when she unexpectedly inherits a vast fortune from the mysterious billionaire Tobias Hawthorne.

  2. Tobias Hawthorne: The deceased billionaire whose will sets the plot in motion. A man of mystery and riddles, his decision to leave his fortune to Avery, a seemingly random girl, is the central mystery of the story.

  3. Nash Westbrook Hawthorne: One of the Hawthorne grandsons. Nash is known for his calm demeanor and is less involved in the family’s corporate affairs.

  4. Grayson Davenport Hawthorne: Another grandson, Grayson is serious and business-minded, often seen as the one most likely to take over the Hawthorne empire. Avery develops a romantic interest in him.

  5. Jameson Winchester Hawthorne: The adventurous and daring Hawthorne grandson, Jameson enjoys the thrill of the hunt, particularly when it comes to solving his grandfather’s puzzles. He becomes one of Avery’s love interests.

  6. Alexander “Xander” Blackwood Hawthorne: The youngest of the Hawthorne grandsons, Xander is a tech whiz and known for his quirky nature.

  7. Libby: Avery’s older half-sister, who has been her guardian since the death of their mother. She supports Avery throughout the novel.

  8. Harry: A homeless man Avery befriends and plays chess with. He is later revealed to be Tobias Hawthorne’s son, Toby, who was thought to have died in a fire 20 years ago.

  9. Zara Hawthorne-Calligaris and Skye Hawthorne: Tobias’s daughters, who are displeased with Avery inheriting the fortune, believing it rightfully belongs to the Hawthorne family.

  10. Drake Sanders: Libby’s aggressive ex-boyfriend who becomes a threat to Avery.
The Inheritance Games Summary


1. The Intricacies of Family Dynamics

At its core, this novel probes the often complicated and tangled web of family relationships

The Hawthorne family, with its deep-seated conflicts and hidden histories, serves as a microcosm of broader familial complexities. Avery, an outsider, finds herself at the center of these dynamics, navigating the resentment, secrets, and loyalties that bind the Hawthorne family together.

This exploration highlights how familial bonds can be both a source of strength and a cause of deep-seated strife. 

The theme is further enriched by Avery’s own background of loss and her developing relationships with the Hawthorne brothers, which adds layers to her understanding of what family truly means.

2. The Pursuit of Identity and Self-Discovery

Avery’s unexpected inheritance is more than just a financial windfall; it’s a catalyst for her own journey of self-discovery. 

Thrust into a world vastly different from her life of financial hardship, Avery confronts questions about her identity and future. The challenges and mysteries she faces at Hawthorne House force her to reevaluate her understanding of herself and her place in the world. 

This theme is a resonant chord for the young adult audience, mirroring the transitional phase of adolescence where the search for self and one’s role in the larger world is paramount.

3. The Power of Resilience and Ingenuity

Avery’s character embodies resilience and resourcefulness in the face of overwhelming odds. 

From dealing with life-threatening situations to solving complex riddles left by Tobias Hawthorne, Avery demonstrates remarkable strength and intelligence. This theme is a celebration of the human spirit’s ability to adapt and overcome challenges. 

It also serves as an empowering message, particularly to young readers, emphasizing the importance of critical thinking, courage, and determination in navigating life’s unpredictability.

Final Thoughts

“The Inheritance Games” is more than a mere tale of riddles and riches; it’s a story of a young girl navigating a maze of family secrets, life-threatening challenges, and budding romance. This gripping novel sets the stage for its sequel, “The Hawthorne Legacy,” leaving readers eagerly anticipating the next chapter in Avery’s extraordinary journey.