Tesla's Attic - Neal Shusterman

This is the first book in a new series, The Accelerati Trilogy, published by Disney Book Group, so you already know one thing about it before you start. The mother is going to die. In this case, the mother is dead before the story starts, so, Phew, got that out of the way! I was disappointed that Neal Shusterman, who wowed me with the Unwind series, would follow the script here.

 

But this story had a lot of plots we’ve seen before: grieving family, new kids in town, strange things happening in the old house they’ve moved into. Nick is the main character who, even at 14, still has his feet firmly planted in innocence. He is almost too good to be true; so yes, that is what I liked about him. The story has plenty of action and intrigue, an appealing, oddball cast of characters, and even a little bit of romance, but it is not a PG-13 read. It’s smart and funny, but it isn’t dangerous, and I mean that in the best possible way. This is the kind of story I would expect a 10-14 year old to enjoy, even if they are reading other books that are a bit more mature. I felt like it was a refreshing break from some of the more complex trilogies my kids are into, a new old-fashioned kind of book.

 

There are typical friendship troubles and mild family problems, but the real story revolves around an attic filled with crazy gadgets that may have been invented by Nikola Tesla. The gadgets themselves remind me a little of Origami Yoda, with his wise and surprising answers to the kids’ most heartfelt questions. In this case, it’s a See ‘n’ Say that finishes your sentences with the truth. Who wouldn’t want one of those, right? There are all sorts of devices here that hide their true purpose within ordinary objects. But there is also something special about this story that makes the world seem like a kinder, gentler place. The bad things that happen are really not so bad, and even the bad things get better fairly quickly. I’m getting a little tired of all those heavy-duty, life or death books aimed at middle grade readers; this is the kind of book they were meant to read. It’s fun, it’s intelligently written, and there is a sense of magic throughout its pages. And, (almost) nobody else dies but the poor, never-had-a-chance mother.