Weird science coming of age story for young teens.,
This review is from: The Wells Bequest (Paperback)
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None of the the science fiction ideas in this novel are new, which is why it will slightly disappoint adult readers. The author also relies on familiar character stereotypes.
I was disappointed at references to people's race where it was not relevant or necessary. The villain is a snobby English boy, in the usual xenophobic American tradition.
Such gripes aside, "The Well's Request" is a pleasant read that contains some surprises and suspense. The opening chapters are a bit slow, but readers who persevere will find themselves increasingly hooked. To overcome some of the science hurdles in the plot, Shulman uses what can only be described as magic. Purists might not like this, but I found it quite entertaining.
It is obvious from the start who the boy and girl heroes are and that their romance will blossom at some point, but you are kept wondering as to when. Both Leo and Jaya are likeable characters. Jaya is bossy and more experienced, Leo is more insightful with an inferiority complex. Both are headstrong in their own way, so you are never sure who will win each of their constant friendly arguments. It is this dialogue between Leo and Jaya that I most enjoyed.
There is a lot of homage paid to Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain, Jules Verne and to a lesser extent H.G. Wells. Wells may have the honour of the novel being named after him, but his pessimistic view of human evolution, is not a theme used.
At its heart this is the story of an underdog boy, who gets his first job and falls in love for the first time. To save his new found love he must go on an unimaginable adventure, using a number of weird science machines, already dreamed up by other authors. It is very much a feel good story in the Disney style. Leo is a young scientist so it will appeal more to those with an interest in science, but I think that you can quite easily enjoy the book just as a RomCom adventure story.
Overall this is an easy to read book that definitely deserves a place on all school library bookshelves, but it falls a little short of being something very special. Polly Shulman does have a lovely writing style, but I hope that she will now take a few more risks in order to reach the next level of excellence.