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March 10, 2021

The Inheritance Games vs The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

by Alison DeLuca

This post is about two titles. The first is a book, The inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, and the second is a movie. 

I loved one, and I was frustrated by the other. 

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The Inheritance Games is about a treasure hunt that includes lots of puzzles and a rags-to-riches story written in the tradition of The Westing Game. Avery Grambs is just trying to survive her senior year when she learns that a billionaire, Tobias Hawthorne, has left her his entire fortune.

Front cover of The Inheritance Games
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Not only that, but Hawthorne House is filled with disinherited family, including four grandsons: Xander, Nash, Grayson, and Jameson. Add Avery's sister, an ex-boyfriend, two moms, several retainers, the butler's daughter, and students at Avery's snooty new school, making a very full character list. 

Let me repeat, FOUR grandsons. I had a tough time telling them apart, but I could have figured it out eventually. 

Avery was the real problem. She should have been interesting, with her sad backstory and newfound wealth. Plus she got to interact with the four grandsons a lot. But each time Xander or Nash or Grayson or Jameson made a joke, Avery reacted with gloom or anger.

So what should have been a really interesting book filled with questions like why did Tobias leave everything to Avery and will the grandsons try to kill her - oh yeah, there's a murder mystery involved as well - got bogged down with Avery's dour personality. 

If only a good editor had insisted on streamlining the plot (less grandsons!) and an appealing heroine, I would have really enjoyed The Inheritance Games

In contrast, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is simple and elegant, which is nearly impossible to achieve in YA fiction. Yes, it's another entry in the "living out the same day over and over again" trope, but this movie takes that concept to another level.

Poster for The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
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Tiny Perfect Things starts in the middle of the time loop, escalating us straight into Mark's story. He's been living the same day for so long that he anticipates each action before it happens, catching a coffee cup before smashing, stepping into a truck for a ride to school, saving a girl from being smacked in the face by a beachball. 

He's got time-loop-life down to a science, with each moment mapped so he can be there when a tired worker sits in front of painted wings or the lights in a treehouse turn on at twilight. 

Everything is mapped out for Mark. He lives each day as a series of wonderful 'coincidences', although he never quite gets a date with the girl at the pool, he's skipping math class, and he hasn't seen his mom since the time-loop began.

Then he runs into an anomaly named Margaret, a mysterious girl who is also looping through the same day. 

Together they explore their little world and become friends. Margaret teaches Mark math and gets him back into class, while he tries to investigate her mystery. Why does she disappear each night after dusk? Where does she go? And why won't she try to break out of their shared time-loop?

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things stays true to its name, creating a little jewel of a film. I loved the actors, loved the homage to time-loop movies, and the ending made me squeal with joy. 

The director, Ian Samuels, got two things right that Inheritance Games missed. The first is to streamline the story to make it as simple as possible. The second: create likable main characters. 

In the end, I finished Inheritance Games because the plot was compelling. If you like puzzles and newfound wealth, this book is entertaining enough. 

But Tiny Perfect Things was a jewel, a film I watched slowly because I didn't want it to end. 

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.

Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey. You can find her at 

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