Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars.
Is it a clean read? It depends.
A couple of things to consider: What could make this slightly more young-adult aged is some kissing and one character’s assumptions about life. Also, Nick and his family are dealing with losing their mom and one of the characters perishes in the novel, too. I feel it’s not completely clean, but the great writing, whimsy, and humor outweigh these elements for me.
Tesla’s Attic is an upper middle grade novel about fourteen-year-old Nick Slate. He and 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 old house left to them by a great aunt, the attic of which is filled with all kinds of broken old things. Nick decides to have a garage sale, and it does eerily well. After he turns on a huge lamp, somehow despite a rainstorm, people are desperate to offer him huge sums for seemingly old, useless equipment.
The novel features unbelievable inventions of Nikola Tesla, scientific conspiracies, secret societies and scientists, baseball, high school drama, and the battle between Tesla and Edison. Now he and his friends are in trouble because a secret society (called Accelerati) founded by Thomas Edison is onto their every move. Solving the mystery that arises becomes a matter of life or death, with amazing pacing, super witty-writing, such fun and appropriate teen/tween angst I loved it!
I live in a science-y house with boys so I really can visualize the characters and their charming personalities and whimsical flaws as well. The inventions are so crazy and over the top in a wonderful way. For a fast-paced adventure, I found the depth of character development very refreshing and realistic. I also lost everything in a fire previously so when Nick had angst over a lost bike or other object, it was right and accurate about those feelings of loss.
A couple of notes – I couldn’t believe the fact that Tesla could have dated Nick’s aunt – when I heard one of the authors speak recently at a writer’s event, it was more like it had been Tesla’s childhood house. That seems more believable to me. Additionally, for people who’ve been in a wildfire the rather wrote paragraph about how fires help with seeds in the forest isn’t really helpful if there are other hurting kids that may pick up the book. I’d just leave that bit out. But that was the only part of the book at all that seemed a bit preachy. The rest kept me in stitches laughing out loud and excited to share this with my boys as well.
Elizabeth Van Tassel writes compelling middle-grade fantasy. She brings her knowledge and expertise in the field of gemology to the page and infuses her love of folklore into modern adventures filled with mystery. A wildfire survivor, Elizabeth also understands the both power of loss and the power of hope. And she’s always on the hunt for a great story. Elizabeth currently resides in the Bay Area with her husband and two sons. She can be found wandering the gardens of Filoli House, enjoying her favorite coffee shops, and engaging with other writers.