Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tesla's Attic

Tesla's Attic: The Accelerati Trilogy Book 1
Neal Shusterman & Eric Elfman
Disney/Hyperion, 2014 246 pgs  

Grades 5-8

Science Fiction/Adventure

Nick and his father and little brother move from Florida to Colorado into an old family house belonging to the old girlfriend of Nikola Tesla, turn-of-the-century inventor.  Nick and his family are still reeling from the death of Nick's mom in a fire and they move into the house as a last resort/fresh start.  In the attic Nick finds a bunch of "junk" which he sells in a yard sale.  The junk sells super fast, much to Nick's surprise.  At the yard sale Nick makes some new friends, including a creative girl, Caitlin, who becomes a potential love interest.  Slowly Nick and his new friends realize that the junk does amazing and magical things.  Secret agents try to acquire the treasures, eventually playing hard ball.  Nick refuses to help them and eventually finds out that they are part of a secret organization know as "The Accelerati".  Nick and Caitlin run around town trying to collect the stuff from the yard sale before the Accelerti can get it.  The book reaches an exciting crescendo as a foreshadowing of the death of one of the characters comes to pass.  The junk/treasures turn out to be inventions of Nikola Tesla and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Nick and his friends are still missing some of the missing pieces.  What will happen when all the missing pieces fit together?  Read the next book in the trilogy to find out!

Tesla's Attic features a lot of fast action, adventure, and excitement.  The plot never slows down and there are twists and turns to keep the reader turning pages.  Shusterman and Elfman offer maybe too many characters for some readers to keep straight, but since they aren't developed and are basically charactatures with broad defining traits, it makes its it easier to follow them.  The book reads a bit like a cartoon, which will appeal to many reluctant readers, and will especially appeal to boys.  What I liked the most about this book was the connection to Nikola Tesla.  Readers will want to find out more about this inventor (I know I did) and they end up learning about him without realizing it. Also, there are some serious elements in the book (Nick's family grieving the death of his mother, Nick's friend's father in jail for a crime he didn't commit, etc) which give it some legitimacy.  Beyond this, the book thinks "outside the box" and encourages kids to think creatively and to maybe invent something themselves.  A major character dies at the end, which was pretty cool that the authors didn't "cheap out" and conveniently alter the prophesy, which usually happens in books for kids this age.  A twist at the end, revealing that an unsuspecting person is part of the Accelerati, will encourage the reader to pick up the second book in the trilogy.  I can definitely see this book being made into a movie.  I would recommend it to fans of Percy Jackson or the 39 Clues series.  Not great literature, but a lot of fun and an easy sell.

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