The Whizbang Machine by Danielle A. Vann
When Elizabeth Yale’s grandfather returns home with a mysterious gift for her, the typewriter present turns out to be something far more sinister. The more she learns about the typewriter and all its secrets, the more secrets about her family are revealed – plus the curse that’s been put on her family for years has come to claim them.
I received an ARC of this book book from the author/publisher.
Publisher’s Description: After years of running from his tragic past, Jack Yale books a flight home. With him is a typewriter that is intended to be a gift for his granddaughter, Elizabeth. The minute Elizabeth’s fingers cradle the large black and cream keys the machine responses: popping, sizzling, and roaring to life with a Whiz-Whiz-BANG! Elizabeth quickly discovers the typewriter has powers beyond anything she has ever seen. The more she types, the more the machine spells out guarded secrets that need to be revealed in order to set history straight and remove a curse that has been on their family for centuries. To solve the mystery, Elizabeth Yale, alongside Jack, will have to crack the code of the Whizbang Machine. What they find challenges their most basic assumptions of their family, the history of the typewriter, and even Elizabeth’s father’s death. The ultimate goal is to remove the curse. The question is: will Jack and Elizabeth be able to carry out their mission?
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Kat Mandu says…
What I liked: Well, you don’t see a typewriter every day in books involving relics that spell out a certain doom for the characters. That’s unique to me because I often see an amulet or a stone or a key. It helps that the typewriter can technically talk back, even if it’s often unhelpful.
The author has a very good idea of suspense going for her, for even though there were many things I wasn’t impressed with, I found myself still wanting to read it to figure out the truth behind all the events going on in the book.
What I didn’t like: First off, the characters. Though they are quite believable due to the things they do and say, they’re not likeable people. Elizabeth is the very epitome of annoying, whiny, and temperamental teenagers. In one scene she can seem very grown up and wise, and in another, throw a tantrum for no reason. It’s frustrating that her traits often change. Plus, I wasn’t fond of the mother or Jack. What kind of grandfather purposely brings something he knows is dangerous to his family, while being aware that it could destroy them? That makes no sense to me. I had a tough time relating to any of them and that was rough for me. All the side characters were unfortunately predictable and you could tell who the bad guy was and who wasn’t.
Also, the plot of the book is drowned out by unnecessary details. The characters often find themselves in situations where they have to talk things out but when the dialogue or inner thoughts display on the page, it’s just a recap of everything that’s already happened and I found myself thinking, “I know this already, why are we wasting time?” This book would be so much better if the author got rid of all that re-summarized information and just got on with the plot.
There are action scenes mingled in but they seem so fake that it’s painful. The characters just “happen” to escape from the police in both New York and Amsterdam. They’re not very well written because it’s trying to happen from only one character’s perspective when there are things happening beyond her scope she’s just automatically tuned in to. I could see this better written as third-person omniscient instead of first-person. Elizabeth just seems to know too much.
I sadly, can only give this a two – but with hopes that when the sequel is written, the action picks up and makes it less worrisome for readers.
Percy Procrastinator says…
This was a tough read for me. The book is written in Elizabeth’s first person POV but for that, I don’t think I got very good insight into her character. Elizabeth was erratic and emotional, more so than I would have expected from a teenager. Had it only been her, though, I could have excused it. Elizabeth’s mom, Lauren, is just as bad and so is Jack, her grandfather, from whom I expected patience and wisdom. So much so that it surprised me and made it tough for me to root for them as characters. I couldn’t find common ground with any of them which meant I didn’t understand them and therefore made it tough to read about them.
The first part of the book is focused on the family members so much that I almost stopped reading before the mystery started. Elizabeth is about to start her summer off and Jack has just returned. Jack had left years earlier, after his wife and son, Elizabeth’s dad, had died within a week of each other. Jack hopes to reconnect with his family but also starts the mystery with his gift.
Once the mystery of the typewriter, the titular WhizBang Machine and gift from Jack, started, that kept me going as I did want to see what the mystery was. Thinking back on it, though, I don’t think the characters gave enough thought to the Whiz Bang machine. It reacted only to Elizabeth by creating smoke letters to spell out words. It electrocuted Jack enough to give him a heart attack. It worked with no power to it or even no paper. What? They have a supernatural item on their hands and it isn’t questioned?
However, when Elizabeth starts having near psychic-level dreams, a supernatural typewriter at that point is par for the course. Sure, some of her dreams reveal to her old memories of her dad. Other dreams, though, are of people she didn’t know who turn out to be real and tied up in the curse. And now we get a curse, because why not at this point? All of these things are used to push Elizabeth and Jack into researching the mystery of her family and I don’t think this was done very well. There are boxes of her dad’s things in storage that contain clues and could have started this in a much better way for me. Further, at no point is how the Whiz Bang machine works or creates smoke messages ever questioned, even though it’s nearly sentient.
Now, having criticized the book, I enjoyed many parts of it. I like the idea of rival families and a feud centuries old. I liked the characters having to go to the library to do searching for documents not on the internet. I liked that they had to travel to Europe to find out more. There were good chase scenes in several places and the tension in them worked for me.
I’m not sure where I stand on the next book. If I knew it was the last book of the series, I would be more interested in it. I’m not curious enough to search it out. For that reason, I give this book a high two. Some good points but it didn’t come together enough for me to give it a three.
I received an ARC of this book book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.