The protagonist is a young teenage boy, Caucasian, I think. He only has one parent, although I'm not certain if it's his father or his mother. I believe the other parents died in a fire, where the child just barely made it out alive himself. I think he has a younger brother. They move into a new town and find that the house is cluttered with old junk and appliances. I want to say there's a strange phone call (garbled voice talking, not responding to anything the boy says) and something falls and hits his head when he opens up an overhead door into the attic. Not long after moving in, they decide to do a yard sale to get rid of the junk and, in kind of a befuddled state due to the head trauma, the kid manages to sell almost everything, often at bargain prices. Not long afterwards, he learns that much of it are devices with strange properties, and the rest of the trilogy is him and his friends trying to round up the devices. He had competition in the form of an organization that turns out to be run by an extremely old (and possibly slightly undead) Thomas Edison. There is also at least one world-ending threat that he has to deal with (I'll mention what I remember of that later). Some of the inventions I remember:

  • A baseball glove that attracts balls and a baseball bat that can always hit the oncoming ball (the bat is lost when he uses it to deflect an oncoming asteroid that would have devastated the Earth, hinted to have been attracted by the glove).
  • A tape recorder that plays back the truth when someone is recorded speaking.
  • A battery that can bring a dead person back to life (one of his friends gets killed, maybe by the same device, with an electrical discharge, and a source of drama/humor is that said friend drops dead every time the battery gets disconnected, but his parents somehow stay unaware). Edison is particularly after this one to restore his life.
  • A fan that generates hurricane-force winds (I remember this was one of the items he retrieved from a woman at the yard sale, whose house had been devastated as a result of it)
  • A telephone that lets him talk to Nikola Tesla in the past, although the connection was bad

The eventual climax of the tale is

He retrieves all of the devices and attaches them to the house in a way that turns it into one huge machine that does... something... but also hurls him back in time. He saves his one parent from the fire (his mother, maybe?) and somehow becomes both the voice from the strange phone call, and possibly Nikola Tesla himself, making it a stable time loop.

I read this somewhere after 2010, I think with books checked out from the Pittsburgh library. Unfortunately, that's a lot of history to try to plumb through.

1 Answer 1


The Accelerati Trilogy by Neal Shusterman...?

Here's the Goodreads synopsis for the first book:

After their home burns down, fourteen-year-old Nick, his younger brother, and their father move into a ramshackle Victorian house they've inherited. When Nick opens the door to his attic room, he's hit in the head by a toaster. That's just the beginning of his weird experiences with the old junk stored up there. After getting rid of the odd antiques in a garage sale, Nick befriends some local kids-Mitch, Caitlin, and Vincent-and they discover that all of the objects have extraordinary properties. What's more, Nick figures out that the attic is a strange magnetic vortex, which attracts all sorts of trouble. It's as if the attic itself has an intelligence . . . and a purpose.

Ultimately Nick learns that the genius Nikola Tesla placed the items-his last inventions-in the attic as part of a larger plan that he mathematically predicted. Nick and his new friends must retrieve everything that was sold at the garage sale and keep it safe. But the task is fraught with peril-in addition to the dangers inherent in Tesla's mysterious and powerful creations, a secret society of physicists, the Accelerati, is determined to stop Nick and alter destiny to achieve its own devious ends. It's a lot for a guy to handle, especially when he'd much rather fly under the radar as the new kid in town.

From a review:

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.


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