What was she thinking?
If their search in the park led them to Parker’s fortune, and if the bracelet really was Siobhan’s, then everyone would have to take back every mean thing they’d said about her grandmother.
– from THE PARKER INHERITANCE, by Varian Johnson
There are a lot of things we inherit. Head-shapes. The slope of a nose. Sometimes the way we laugh or bristle. A person of color also inherits things that have less to do with them specifically, but more to do with a country which institutionalizes racism – sometimes a family comes away with generational health issues, financial issues, and an sense of shame from the past. We inherit history – and sometimes, not just our personal histories.
One doesn’t normally find that sort of thing touched on in a middle grade book, but Varian Johnson gives readers a lot to chew on, while giving writers a master class in how to talk about important things… while encircling those things with an entertaining narrative.
Candice is already in a funk – having the family home remodeled in preparation for it to be sold. After her parents’ divorce, Candice doesn’t feel like she fits anywhere, so a summer in Lambert, South Carolina, where her mother is from, can’t possibly make things much worse. The boy across the street is nice enough, though younger, and their mothers pushing them to hang out is…annoying, but okay, he’s better than nothing.
When it turns out Brandon is a reader, and he reads interesting books – even if his grandfather has dumb ideas about those books – Candice finds solace. When it turns out that Brandon can listen without judgment to the story of Candice’s grandmother — and will help Candice shine a light on the mystery surrounding her getting fired from her City job, Candice is certain Brandon is a real friend. But getting into your family business with someone you’ve just met feels… tricky. There’s a lot of secrets to discover as they piece through the puzzles and clues. Who hid the treasure, and why? Who was Siobhan, and how did Candice get her bracelet? And what will they do if there’s really money to be found?
The mystery in this book is well done — and tricky enough that most readers will not be able to pull it together before the characters. The other small twists – about gay family and friends, and how knowing someone is gay doesn’t change who they’ve ever been – that’s a lovely surprise. This book is covered with praise – a CSK Honor Winner, a Horn Book Honor Winner, a NYT Public Library “Top Ten,” an ALSC Notable Children’s Book – the high fives and kudos go on and on. An unassuming and quiet book about one girl digging into her family history subtly leads the reader to places unexpected — and will be really enjoyed by other quiet kids of any color or gender who have felt out of place and wondered what they’ve inherited, and what they would choose to pass on.
Until the next book,