Tesla’s Attic — “The Accelerati Trilogy” series
This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. This is the first book in “The Accelerati Trilogy” series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
In the wake of a house fire that killed his mother, 14-year-old Nick Slate, his younger brother, Danny, and their dad move from Tampa, Florida, to Colorado Springs, Colorado. They plan to make a fresh start, living in the long-abandoned house of Great-Aunt Greta. Nick chooses the cluttered attic for his bedroom and holds a garage sale to dispose of numerous ancient appliances. To his amazement, people come in droves on a rainy day, begging to buy the pieces of seemingly worthless junk.
Several neighborhood kids about Nick’s age come to the garage sale, feeling strangely compelled to buy from him. He meets several soon-to-be classmates, including the pretty and popular Caitlin, the somber Vince and a stocky Hispanic boy named Mitch. After the sale, a pearl-white SUV pulls up and four men in pastel three-piece suits emerge. The men buy up all the remaining garage-sale junk and promise to make it worth Nick’s while if he can retrieve any of the other pieces he sold. They leave him a business card imprinted with the name Dr. Alan Jorgenson.
Caitlin, Vince and Mitch soon realize the junk they bought can do amazing things. Caitlin’s reel-to-reel recorder doesn’t play back what a person says, but what the person is actually thinking. Mitch’s device finishes your sentences and provides advice. And Vince’s wet-cell battery can resuscitate dead things. Another classmate, an odd girl named Petula, discovers the camera she bought can take photos of the future. She only shares this information with the lunch lady, Ms. Planck, who has a dark room she lets Petula use.
Caitlin and the boys wonder about the origins of the items, all marked “property of NT.” They’re able to buy back a few pieces from neighbors. When Danny catches a meteorite with an old ball glove from the attic, the men in pastel suits arrive again and demand to buy the glove. Nick secretly sells them a different glove.
Jorgenson and his men continue to appear, and Nick learns they’re part of a covert group of scientists called the Accelerati. The items from Nick’s attic belonged to the inventor Nikola Tesla, and the Accelerati wants his research. Specifically, the group is seeking an invention called the Far Range Energy Emitter (FREE). The kids accidentally discover that by arranging the various pieces of junk in the center of Nick’s strangely-magnetized room, they have partially recreated the FREE.
Mitch and Petula develop crushes on one another. After getting to know Nick, Caitlin becomes even more disenchanted with her boring boyfriend, Theo. Theo schemes to get between Nick and Caitlin by befriending Nick’s ex-baseball-player father and feigning interest in his sports career.
Petula’s camera predicts someone will die in Nick’s house. It turns out to be Vince. The same day, Nick learns Danny inadvertently pulled the meteorite from the sky with the old glove, and now the universe is out of whack. In fact, a celestial object called Felicity Bonk is on a collision course with earth. Everyone on the planet begins to prepare for the moment it will hit and destroy the world. Just in time, Nick’s dad swings a bat with such force that the universe is realigned and the celestial object is no longer a threat.
Ms. Planck tells Petula about her association with the Accelerati and encourages the girl to follow in her footsteps. Meanwhile, Nick and Caitlin realize they have to protect and reconstruct the FREE. They set off to find Vince and reanimate him with Tesla’s battery.
Mitch fears he won’t have the fortitude to keep Nick’s secrets unless he swears on a Bible. The boys are at Vince’s house, so Vince offers them a Smurf Bible or a Thomas Kinkade Bible from his mother’s collection. Mitch says he needs a Bible that’s more intimidating, so Vince pulls out a large, Gothic-looking family Bible. He calls it the Damnation Bible because when it’s been suggested he may be going to hell, he imagines that’s what the gate would look like.
When Mitch wears a shirt and tie in preparation to visit his jailed father, Nick teases him about going door to door and passing out religious pamphlets. Vince knows every mortuary in town and its religious affiliation, which helps the boys determine where to find the dead body they’re seeking. When the news hits that the world is about to end, people begin packing the pews in places of worship to find salvation.
Other Belief Systems
This story hinges on the way many different strings of cosmic fate converge to create a given situation. Ms. Planck tells Petula she can either let the future happen to her, or she can be the one to create it. When everyone thinks the world is ending, some people head to churches while others go to the movies just for escapism. The narrator suggests that there’s no wrong way to face the end of the world.
Characters use the Lord’s name in vain, as well as words including screwed, crap, suck, d--n, h---, a--, p---ed and freaking. A few characters say words that, while not written out in the text, are clearly meant to be s--- and the f-word.
When Caitlin’s old tape recorder lets her know what people are really thinking, she hears Theo thinking repeatedly about making out with her. The same machine reveals the school’s football running back has a secret crush on the quarterback. Nick learns Great-Aunt Greta had a reputation for being a floozy in her day.
Petula says Nick was dragging his eyes over Caitlin’s wet T-shirt at the garage sale. When Petula discovers her camera can photograph the future, she plots to lure Nick to her home when her parents are gone for a make-out session. To her dismay, the camera reveals she will be making out with Mitch instead. She goes ahead and makes out with Mitch, for longer than she’d intended. She finds it is much more pleasant than the practice sessions she’s had with her dog.
When Caitlin and Nick visit Vince, he is wearing briefs that read, “Caution, this package is explosive.” When a student demonstrates his earthquake machine in class, another student suggests he make the machine shake off a teacher’s bra.
Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.
Alcohol: One teacher is known for regularly and secretly swigging Jack Daniel’s. When he believes the world is about to end, he drinks it gleefully in front of the students, since the principal won’t be able to fire him.
Lying: Nick and others tell lies to parents and teachers to keep themselves from getting in trouble or to carry out their plans without adult interference.
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Readability Age Range
9 to 12
Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman
Disney Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group
VOYA Top Shelf Fiction for Middle Readers, 2014