Today my book-loving mom is here to discuss The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman!
At a recent family event, our bookish clan traded books, and as a treat, my daughter allowed me to pick several advance reader copies to read and review. I’ve always loved H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, so I naturally gravitated toward The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman. It looked light and easy, a perfect volume for a summer weekend, and I was very pleased to find it offered more than its cover promised. Also there are a couple small spoilers!
Note: I borrowed The Wells Bequest from daughter (who borrowed from a friend). I read an ARC and so some things might have changed in the final version.
Hidden in New York City is a lending library of endless wonder, containing gadgets that would make a Victorian era futurist proud … many of them are located in the appropriately-named Wells Bequest, a section of said fictional New York City Circulating Material Repository. The Wells Bequest is a delightful young adult science fiction adventure that combines the best of Warehouse 13 and Doctor Who with Rick Riordan’s series while sliding in references to a number of classic adult (science) fiction books and a good deal of history. We are introduced to several historical figures and events. Polly Shulman weaves history and fiction together into a well-paced race to prevent a young man from making a very big mistake.
The protagonists are brilliant, nerdy teens who love books and gadgets but are also eager to get out and do something. Naturally, events conspire to give them a good adventure and save the world – completely anonymously as usual. What is unusual is that both protagonists, a boy and a girl, are equal. The young woman, Jaya, in fact runs off on her own a few times and does not need rescuing from her male companion, Leo … or anyone for that matter. If you are looking for a book for a girl (or a boy) who loves machinery, take a look at this one.
The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman (The Grimm Legacy #2)
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on June 13th, 2013
Genres: MG, Sci-fi, YA
Page Length: 272 pages
How I got my copy: Borrowed
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Leo never imagined that time travel might really be possible, or that the objects in H. G. Wells’ science fiction novels might actually exist. And when a miniature time machine appears in Leo’s bedroom, he has no idea who the tiny, beautiful girl is riding it. But in the few moments before it vanishes, returning to wherever—and whenever—it came from, he recognizes the other tiny rider: himself!
His search for the time machine, the girl, and his fate leads him to the New-York Circulating Material Repository, a magical library that lends out objects instead of books. Hidden away in the Repository basement is the Wells Bequest, a secret collection of powerful objects straight out of classic science fiction novels: robots, rockets, submarines, a shrink ray—and one very famous time machine. And when Leo’s adventure of a lifetime suddenly turns deadly, he must attempt a journey to 1895 to warn real-life scientist Nikola Tesla about a dangerous invention. A race for time is on!
- I love young adult books that portray libraries, museums, and public repositories as engaging, magical places. There is a lot of wonder to be found in the Wells Bequest and in the wonder-filled city of New York, not far from Central Park. Shulman’s description of the place, the people, and the neighborhood made it seem so real that I miss it already.
- In a book full of delightful nuggets, the author’s treatment of the adults is refreshing. Most young adult books that I’ve reviewed lately paint all adults as blind dullards who have no sense of adventure. In the Wells Bequest, the adult librarians and family members are allowed to be wise, creative, imaginative, and competent without detracting from the teens’ main role in developing the plot.
- The characters show a strong ethical streak, and they save the villain from the accidental non-existence caused by his own mistaken tampering with history. This is a definite plus in an era where so many victories involve the death of the antagonist. In the Wells Bequest, the heroes win – and everyone gets to live.
- Despite the increasingly fantastic plot, the characters and locations all seem to be very real and down to earth. Shulman humanizes Samuel Clemens and Nicholas Tesla, showing how these two very creative minds might have been friends who simply liked to hang out and talk about every day happenings.
- It is very possible to read this book without having read the first book in the “series”. Although there are some characters in common, and the base premise is the same, the story stands on its own while enticing the reader to go take a look at the Grimm Legacy and find out what Jaya’s older sibling got up to.
- It would have been a good story if Jaya had been made the protagonist instead of Leo. There are too few books in which the girl is the main character, and this would have been the perfect venue to let her shine with Leo as the companion.
- At times, the dialog was a bit stilted and forced, especially before the plot really got going.
I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to finding a copy of the earlier book in the series. The Wells Bequest is classic pre-1950s science fiction written for the teen crowd. Exciting enough to keep the reader turning pages without being violent or too suspenseful, it is an excellent introduction to the genre for pre-teen girls and boys. And for those of us who remain young at heart.
The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman
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