Shusterman, Neal and Elfman, Eric. Tesla's Attic (The Accelerati #1)
February 11th 2014, Disney-Hyperion
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Nick, his father, and his brother move from Florida to Colorado Springs after a disastrous house fire that claimed the life of Nick's mother. They move into the creepy, decrepit old house left to them by a great aunt, the attic of which is filled with all manner of broken junk. Nick decides to have a garage sale, and it does eerily well-- people are desperate to offer him huge sums for useless equipment. A girl from his new school, Caitlyn, picks out a reel-to-reel tape recorder, Mitch buys a primitive metal "See-n-Say", and Vince purchases a wet cell battery. When the sale is over, four creepy men in pastel suits buy everything that is left and leave their card with Nick in case any of the items are returned. There's a good reason for this-- all of the items have weird powers. The tape recorder records what people are actually thinking, the See-n-Say finishes Mitch's sentences with the truth, and Vince's battery can reanimate dead flesh. There is also a box camera that Petula, who has a huge crush on Nick, purchases, and it takes pictures of the future. After Nick's brother catches an asteroid in a baseball mitt from the attic, the pastel suits return and offer him a huge amount of money for the mitt. At first, the father refuses, but when they also offer him a job fixing copiers at NORAD for a huge sum of money, he capitulates. The baseball mitt has somehow caused a celestial object to be set on a collision course for Earth, and the group is distracted from the pastel suits, whom they find to be a group called the Accelerati, by the fact that they will all soon be dead. Or will they? Since this is the first book in a trilogy, you may assume that they survive.
Strengths: The beginning of the book, with the toaster falling on Nick and the garages sale, was great fun. There's a lot of action and adventure, some good character development and characters (Caitlyn's clueless boyfriend Theo is a hoot, as is the school bully and the cafeteria lady, Mrs. Planck). The gadgets are fun as well, and some more serious issues underlying everything.
Weaknesses: The pastel suit guys never seemed very menacing, but they clearly are. I could definitely have done without the death of Nick's mother and also one of the children. That was rather gratuitous and shocking. It also seemed like the plot fell apart a bit and everything got confusing. I also had a slight historical problem with the premise that the great aunt was a romantic interest of Nikola Tesla's, when he left Colorado Springs in 1900. It seems unlikely that toasters and other things would have been in the attic, having been given to the great aunt, but it's a possibility.
I feel bad that I didn't love this more, since I usually adore Shusterman's writing.