The Tesla Legacy, K.K. Pérez (Tor Teen 978-1-250-08489-7, $17.99, 368pp, tp) March 2019.
K.K. Pérez’s The Tesla Legacy presents a familiar but always compelling premise: what if you are not the person you think you are? In this case, high school senior Lucy thinks she knows herself very well. She’s a former homeschooler now happily ensconced in public school, living just outside New York City, where she pursues an interest in science, dates popular athlete Cole, and hangs out with best friend Claudia. Her biggest problem is epilepsy and its accompanying seizures that have left her chafing under her parents overprotectiveness. Lucy is determined to go away to college, but they would prefer she stay nearby and attend their alma mater. It’s a problem she is determined to solve while also keeping an eye on the machinations of a popular classmate with designs on Cole and trying not to feel left out as Claudia starts spending more time with her new girlfriend.
Basically, other than the fact that she has a cat named after Erwin Schrödinger and is conducting some experiments mimicking the work of Alessandro Volta for physics class, Lucy is pretty much a typical American teen. Then she uncovers a family photo with a cryptic message that leads her to Manhattan and the last workroom of Nikola Tesla. From there things get really weird (as in really weird), and Lucy must view her seizures in a wholly different light. At the same time, several people start to show an increased interest in her experiments, including a very hot new teaching assistant, and before she knows it there is not one group, not two groups, but three groups who all appear to be part of a centuries-long battle to control whatever Tesla knew and are now out to get Lucy. And everyone is lying to her. Everyone.
Even the perfect boyfriend who really has been spending too much time with that bitchy classmate.
Honestly, more than once the scientific leaps and conspiracy tropes that Pérez doles out in The Tesla Legacy made me shake my head. “This time she’s gone too far,” I thought, but then I turned the next page and the next and the next and, yep, I just kept on reading. Because even though there are several leaps of faith you need to make in this book, it was very cool to read a teen novel that includes lots of insightful discussion about the work of Volta, Tesla, Newton, and Edison. And Lucy’s love for science, which developed from her deep affection for her scientist father, is really fun to read about. When you mix in alchemy (right on the mark for Newton) and all those secret societies, then the plot certainly gets wild, but that’s what a thriller is supposed to be. The fact that this one deals with the evolution of humanity just makes it all a bit more science fiction than crime, but the end result is still the same: you want to know what will happen to Lucy and you can’t stop reading to find out.
Yes, there is a cliffhanger ending and, yes, you will not be entirely surprised by some of the choices Lucy makes. But all in all, The Tesla Legacy is an irresistible and entirely addictive ride. Pérez clearly had so much fun writing this novel, and she succeeded in making it a lot of fun for us to read.
Colleen Mondor, Contributing Editor, is a writer, historian, and reviewer who co-owns an aircraft leasing company with her husband. She is the author of “The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska” and reviews regularly for the ALA’s Booklist. Currently at work on a book about the 1932 Mt. McKinley Cosmic Ray Expedition, she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. More info can be found on her website: www.colleenmondor.com.
This review and more like it in the March 2019 issue of Locus.
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