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An evening full of puzzle fun

Buxtehude celebrates “The Inheritance Games” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Buxtehude. What has to happen for a teenage girl to become world famous overnight, and how do I tell that in a good story? A question that the 52nd Buxtehude Bull award winner, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, who wanted to be an author since she was five, carried around with her for a long time until it finally clicked in her adult author mind.

The professor of psychology and creative writing revealed how the two came together in her video message during the award ceremony on the Halepaghen stage in Buxtehude, Germany. Unfortunately, the American author was unable to travel to Buxtehude herself due to professional and personal reasons. She thanked not only the jury that selected “The Inheritance Games,” but also everyone who creates a culture of passion for reading and literature among young people and adults in Buxtehude, year after year.

When the jury was asked about their work, Barnes' impression was immediately confirmed on stage: "It was a diverse reading experience - it was fun to read books that I might never have touched otherwise," said a young jury member.

“Of course, we very much hope that Jennifer Lynn Barnes comes to Buxtehude at a later date,” said Mayor Katja Oldenburg-Schmidt. Because there is an iron rule when it comes to bulls: “A bull is not delivered, a bull is picked up” - even when magician Manuel Muerte, with the help of the audience, magically transports the twelve kilogram steel bull sculpture to the award winner's virtual study in Oklahoma, USA.

Puzzle house meets fiction psychology

Barnes said that two events, ten years apart, inspired her to write the book: she had always wanted a secret passage. When her father worked with an architect on the plans for his dream house, this wish came true. Appropriately, the entrance was behind a bookshelf. In this “puzzle house,” as Barnes calls it, her father is present in every detail, felt even. Years later, when she was studying psychology of fiction during college and wondering what event would have to happen for a teenager to become world famous overnight, her puzzle house and the book idea came together. Nothing is more exciting for people than gossip and the attempt to look behind other people's motives, intentions and secrets and understand them. The character of a sudden heiress – Avery Grambs – in a house full of puzzles and secrets was born.

Puzzle fun with audio book recordings

“The Inheritance Games” was largely created in the spring and summer of 2020, during the lockdown, and was released in the USA in the same year. “Jennifer Lynn Barnes has created a world in which the seemingly impossible is possible and which makes it impossible to put the book down,” said audio book speaker and actress, Leonie Landa, in her laudatory speech and enchanted the audience with her short reading and her wonderful voice. The recording was also recorded during the pandemic: “Every hour that I spent puzzling over why Avery was in the will, and who was good towards her, was an hour that took me out of a state of sadness and painted a colorful world of possibilities."

“Anyone who reads books looks at the whole world and not just until the fence,” said Mayor Katja Oldenburg-Schmidt, quoting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Especially in these times, it is important to look beyond the fence, not to withdraw completely, to look and continue to form opinions.

Charmingly moderated and peppered with personal anecdotes by book-lover and podcaster, Anne Sauer, the evening itself became an entertaining look into the world of secrets, puzzles and literature. Meanwhile, songwriter Hannes Koch, a real “Buxtehude Boy” - himself a former student at the Halepaghen School (grammar school), then sang his version of “Lucky Day”. A lucky day, or evening, for the 52nd Buxtehude Bull awards ceremony, which would certainly have pleased Winfried Ziemann, the inventor of the youth book award. 

The Book

Avery Grambs has a plan: survive high school, get a scholarship, and then get out of here. However, all that is history when multi-billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery almost his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea who the man was. To claim her inheritance, Avery must move into the gigantic Hawthorne House, where every room bears witness to the old man's love of puzzles and secrets. Unfortunately, it also houses his newly disinherited family. Above all, the four Hawthorne grandsons: fascinating, attractive and dangerous. Caught in this dazzling world of wealth and privilege, Avery must engage in a game of intrigue and calculation if she wants to survive.

The Inheritance Games (Volume 1)
Translated from English to German by Ivana Marinovi
approx, 400 pages
ISBN 978-3-570-31432-6

Also available:
The Inheritance Games – The Hawthorn Legacy (Volume 2)
The Inheritance Games - The Final Gambit (Volume 3)

The Author

Jennifer Lynn Barnes has already written more than 20 highly-acclaimed young adult novels and has climbed the New York Times bestseller list. She was a Fulbright scholar and studied psychology, psychiatry and cognitive science. She graduated from Yale University and now works as a professor of psychology and creative writing.

The Translator

Ivana Marinovi, born in Esslingen, Germany, in 1980, studied comparative literature and worked as an editor for a youth book publisher for several years before becoming self-employed as a freelance editor and translator.

About the Award

The Buxtehude Bull is one of the most renowned and traditional German literary awards. It was initiated in 1971 by the Buxtehude bookseller Winfried Ziemann. The award is endowed with € 5 000. The aim of the Buxtehuder Bull is to get young people excited about reading and to promote the distribution of good books for young people. Due to the traditional equal composition of the jury of eleven youth and eleven adults, the award has successfully formed the interface between literary quality, youth reading preferences and topics that concern young people and literary experts alike for over 50 years. In terms of its objectives and its procedure, the award is unique in the German-speaking world.


Youth Literature Award – Buxtehude Bull
Melanie Hainke
Breite Straße 2 | 21614 Buxtehude | Germany
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