The Parker Inheritance

Written by Varian Johnson
Review by Wendy Zollo

Eleven-year-old Candice is spending the summer with her mother in her late grandmother’s house while waiting for her home in Atlanta to be renovated. She’s not happy in Lambert, South Carolina—she’s lonely for her friends back home and dealing with feelings, tension, and the awkwardness accompanying her recently separated parents. Upon meeting Brandon, the boy across the street, they discover a letter in the attic which sets them upon some mysteries of the consequences of the past, her family’s history, and a literal treasure of money for the person who solves the puzzle.

Told in the present day with flashbacks to the Fifties and Eighties, Johnson covers all aspects of those periods, capturing the essence of racism and its lingering effects into the new millennium, bullying, and sexuality in both an age-appropriate approach and one that is relevant and eye-opening. The story is smart and potent. The puzzle aspect grounds the story, completely involves the main characters’ quest for money and knowledge, and manages to make the supporting players shine. Candice and Brandon’s rush to solve the mystery forces them to think creatively, and to consider with intelligence and respect the outcome of their efforts.

The only flaw, in this charm of a novel, maybe in tackling too much; some heady issues are explored though not to the depth they warrant and that the reader deserves. It sparkles, though, in its writing and main subject matter.