I received The Perpetual Motion Machine Club by Sue Lange as a review copy. This is a Young Adult Science Fiction novel. Overall, it was an enjoyable read.
The book started out a little bit slow for me. It took me a couple of chapters before I really got hooked on it, but once Lange got into the Perpetual Motion Machines, I was hooked. Elsa is fantastic. I loved the layers Lange added to that character. She wants to be different, and that comes with consequences, but she accepts them all (some she handles better than others) and ends up making a difference. She’s very intelligent, but she’s not always very smart which can be frustrating for some people. I think it accurately describes a sophomore aged teen. I also appreciate all of the ways Lange lets Elsa down throughout the story. The romance plot with Jimmy was a little predictable, but I didn’t really mind that so much because Jimmy was a pretty great kid. It helped to highlight Elsa’s personal growth when she came to that realization for herself. The world Lange builds takes the clique dynamic and feeds it steroids. Most teens feel like high school is life or death, but Lange almost makes that feeling a reality by forcing that dynamic out of the friendship sphere and making it into a career sphere. Being in the “right circle” now has far greater importance because it can affect where, or if, you attend college and whether you get sponsored or not. The corporate sponsorship gets to be overwhelming pretty early into the story, but I’m ok with that because I imagine living inside of that atmosphere would be overwhelming. I think it’s another way to help relate to the characters.
There were a couple of flaws for me. The most serious one is the lack of an established time. The story is set in the future, but there is no real marker for me how far into the future it is. Some moments make it seem like it’s only a decade or so, but others make it seem like it’s much further into the future. That fluidity of time makes it hard to feel grounded in the story. Another involves Penn State. Elsa has a Penn State sweatshirt that she wears all the time. For her birthday, Jimmy makes her a beret in Penn State’s colors. The book tells us the hat was blue/yellow and those are not their school colors. Their colors are blue/white. This last one is a personal pet peeve of mine, so I’ll mention it since I’ve ranted about it on here before, but “conversate” appears in the novel. You either converse or you have a conversation. Is it minor? Yep. Like I said, though, it’s a personal thing with me so I’m mentioning it. It only appears the one time, so unless you are as particular as I am, you probably won’t even notice it’s in there.
I don’t know much about Perpetual Motion Machines, but those sections were the stars for me. I think it let us see Elsa in a slightly different way than at any other time during the novel. Plus, the machines themselves were fascinating. I wish I could have visited Elsa’s FutureWorld display because I think it would have been amazing.
I enjoyed this book. Is it perfect? No. That said, it’s a damn entertaining read. I plan on passing it along to my 14 year old son to see his take on it. There’s enough science and math thrown in that I think he’ll enjoy it, too.