MG at Heart Book Club Book Review: THE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson


April’s Middle Grade @ Heart selection was Varian Johnson’s fantastic new mystery, THE PARKER INHERITANCE. Everyone on the MG @ Heart team absolutely loved this one! Since so much of the book has to do with the mysterious letter Candice finds in her grandmother’s attic, we thought we’d write our review in the form of a letter, too! If you’ve read THE PARKER INHERITANCE, you might notice just a few similarities between this letter and that one—though there aren’t any puzzles hidden in here! You’ll have to read our newsletter for one of those.

Dear Reader,

I write to you on behalf of superstar author Varian Johnson’s newest book, THE PARKER INHERITANCE. This remarkable novel is smart, engaging, and heartfelt, combining a classic-feeling puzzle hunt reminiscent of THE WESTING GAME with a fascinating, thought-provoking historical mystery. Just as Candice and Brandon are pulled deeper and deeper into solving the mystery of Candice’s grandmother and the Washington family, you, the reader, will be drawn further and further into this un-put-down-able page turner.

If you’ve wavered about whether or not you should read THE PARKER INHERITANCE, I promise it’s no mystery. Here are three “clues” to why this middle grade read should be next up on your to-read list.

Clue #1: THE PARKER INHERITANCE does a fantastic job of weaving together three different generations of residents of Lambert, South Carolina: Candice and Brandon in the present day, Candice’s grandmother Abigail in 2007, and the Washington family in the 1950s. The way the narrative switches back and forth between different points of view will keep you turning pages—and challenge you to see whether you’re able to connect all the dots and solve the puzzle before Candice and Brandon!

Clue #2: THE PARKER INHERITANCE is accessible enough to appeal to both upper elementary and middle school students, but it doesn’t flinch away from addressing some pretty big issues in an age-appropriate manner, either. Varian Johnson skillfully explores racism both past and present, bullying, sexism, and homophobia—but the pitch-perfect middle grade voice makes each of these topics engrossing and palatable to the pickiest middle grade reader.

Clue #3: THE PARKER INHERITANCE is one of very few middle grade books that truly has appeal for everyone—kids, adults, picky readers, lovers of adventure, and those who prefer more emotional character-focused books. Perfectly balanced and engagingly told, this is the perfect kind of book for kids and their parents or teachers to read and discuss together. (If you need suggestions for discussion questions, check out the discussion guide in our April newsletter!)


The Middle Grade @ Heart Team

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