I bought this book solely because I heard it was a YA version of Knives out! It took my a while to get to reading it, because mystery just isn’t always my cup of tea. I finally read it this week, and was not disappointed! It’s MC is delightful, mystery is ever evolving, and keeps you hooked until the very last page. I’m going to try my best to keep this spoiler free! Maybe some minor spoiler’s throughout the review, but I will not reveal who the “bad guy” is or the cliffhanger at the end.
Synopsis (Spoiler Free)
Avery Grambs is stuck. She’s stuck in a high school she is excelling at, dreaming of the day when she can win a scholarship and go to UCONN, which has the top actuarial science program in the country. (For those who are dummies like me, actuarial science is statistical risk assessment). She’s also stuck living with a half-sister and her violent boyfriend, ever since her mother’s death two years beforehand. She dreams of the day she is an actuarial scientist, working remotely while traveling the world. This dream is completely derailed when a young man comes to get her from school and drops a bomb: she is listed in the will of the wealthiest man in Texas, Tobias Hawthorne. The kicker? She has never met this man. She travels to Texas to hear this mysterious will, and discovers he has given her the majority of his estate- a grand total of 42.6 billion dollars. The only catch? 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. Now Avery is stuck living in a house with The Hawthornes and of course, tensions are running high. The Hawthorne’s were under the impression Tobias was going to leave everything to one of the 4 enigmatic grandsons and they are bitter and suspicious of Avery at every turn. Avery can’t let go the mystery of why she was chosen, and she eventually teams up with the grandsons of Tobias- Jameson, Nash, Xander, and Grayson to unravel the clues Tobias Hawthorne left behind. The grandsons all have different motivations for helping her- Jameson thinks she is their grandpa’s last puzzle, Grayson thinks she’s a con woman, Xander and Nash don’t want Jameson and Grayson’s mysterious feud to kick up again. However, Avery finds the key to unraveling this mystery means digging deep into the Hawthorne family’s past, and she learns that each of the Hawthorne’s is hiding a dark secret. The more Avery unravels, the less sure she is about who she can trust, and this feeling is enforced when someone attempts to murder her. Now she must find out why she was chosen, and who is trying to kill her before it’s too late.
I’m gonna be honest… I found most of the characters to be unlikeable. I loved Avery, but the rest? I felt no connection to.
I loved our MC! She is smart and compassionate. In one of the opening scenes, she is playing chess with a homeless man named Harry who she regularly buys breakfast for. We also see that the first (and only as far as the reader is aware) time she spends money it is to buy this man a place to stay. She loves her half sister fiercely, but unlike her half sister she never lets anyone walk all over her. She is tough, resourceful, generous, and manages to stays two steps ahead of everyone else in this novel. I also love her dreams of traveling. Some of the only times she gets truly emotional in this novel is when faced with her dream of traveling becoming a reality or when faced with pictures of people from all over the world. As someone who has always felt that way, I can relate to that yearning to see the whole world. The only thing that was kind of annoying was her wishy-washy romantic attitude. There is a love triangle in this novel, which is my least favorite trope and her wishy washy, back and forth was annoying to read. Not to mention the two boys in her love triangle are people who very possibly could be trying to kill her, and they are both traumatized from a previous love triangle where their mutual love interest died? I know teenagers are reckless, but I felt like Avery was smart enough to avoid any romantic entanglements with these boys, at least until the dust has settled on her inheritance and she knows who is trying to kill her. I like that Avery’s internal struggle throughout the novel, is if she is special enough to receive this inheritance and what Tobias saw in her that made him want to give it to her. She goes back and forth between thinking she may just be a tool to say f*** you to Tobias’ family or that maybe he saw something special in her. I believe its a combo of the two. Avery is uniquely suited to fit in perfectly at his estate, and seems to share the same love of puzzles as Tobias does. I think if she does end up taking over his whole company and charity she will completely excel- with her combo of compassion and head for probability and statistics she could do big things.
Jameson is the love interest that has the most page time in this novel, to my disappointment. He is one of those characters who it just seems to me like the author is trying SO hard to make him seem mysterious, and to me he just comes off as very pretentious and self-absorbed. I became frustrated with him very early on, because he just seems to speak in proverbs. I don’t know any 17 year old boys who do that. It reminded me of how I felt about August when reading The Fault in Our Stars (sorry). He really doesn’t seem to care about Avery at all, but Avery keeps alluding to how attracted to him she is and goes back and forth on if he is really attracted to her or just trying to use her to solve his Grandfather’s last puzzle. Anyways, to be fair he also has a whole lot going on internally, his prior love interest Emily mysteriously passed away on the Hawthorne’s grounds and he is still (understandably) grieving for her.
I guess in this love triangle, I am Team Grayson. I find in these sort of mystery novels, its usually the boy who is most suspicious of the MC that has the purest intentions (Don’t ask me why just an observation) and in this novel that is certainly Grayson. He is downright rude to Avery at first, convinced this is a scheme of hers and threatens her multiple times. However, as he gets to know her and learns she’s not that type of person he definitely warms up to her. He does a lot in this novel to protect his family, including turning Avery down when she tries to kiss him because he doesn’t want to hurt Jameson. He is clearly the more selfless one of the boys, and his love of photography and traveling have me convinced that he and Avery are endgame in this series.
I have to admit, I was really suspicious of Nash the entire novel. I think he reminded me of Ransom in Knives out (spoiler alert), it seemed like his “could not care less” attitude was a facade. However, he never did anything bad so I guess he didn’t deserve my suspicion. I still feel like there is more to him than what meets the eye so I will be interested to see what happens in the sequel!
Xander is a fluffy teddy bear and I loved him. He is hilarious and seems to be the only grandson with no ulterior motive. Again, I feel like there is more to him than meets the eye and am hoping he is explored more in the sequel.
The plot was one of the best things about this novel. It was fast paced, with just the right amount of twists. Not enough to make you confused, and not too little so its boring. You were constantly learning new information that evolved the character’s and made you second guess everything. It was extremely well written, and kept you on your toes. I guessed the Cliffhanger about 5 chapters in, and just when I started to think maybe I was wrong… Bam last page. One of my only criticisms, is once you find out who the villain actually is, that plot line just fizzles out and dies. Literally no confrontation, no nothing you just don’t see that person anymore. It wasn’t very satisfying.
Things I liked Vs. Things I disliked
- Avery’s character was awesome! She is brilliant and independent and I loved almost everything about her (taste in boys being the one thing i disliked about her)
- The mystery element was well thought out and kept you on your toes
- Plot was fast paced and gripping
- Jameson. His whole character was the worst thing about this novel.
- The love triangle was terrible, and also kind of inappropriate? I mean Jameson and Grayson are still traumatized from the last time they both liked a girl and the exact same thing basically happens again?
- Unsatisfying resolution of the mystery
- I have never enjoyed “mysterious” characters and by that I mean, often in this novel Avery would ask about something and in response she would be brushed off or given a cryptic answer. And this is a criticism of every single character besides Avery. Cryptic answers are lazily written “myserious” characters.
Overall Thoughts and Rating
I think in the end I felt Meh about this book. I definitely want to read the sequel, and when I finished this book I was excited to read the next one. However, as I was writing this review I just found I didn’t have much to say? It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read but it was not for me in a few different ways.
Overall, I am rating this book a 2.5/5. It was a fun read, but not a meaningful read for me.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?