Ah yes, The Whizbang Machine by Danielle A. Vann, a.k.a. that awkward moment when my very first NetGalley approval is for a book I ended up setting aside and not finishing.
It’s not even as if it’s the first time I’ve read a book I realized I didn’t like less than halfway through. I’ve made it through Twilight, for crying out loud, and that book was still much worse than The Whizbang Machine.
But I guess I decided to end my suffering with this particular book because there are other books I need to read and review now that I have this blog, and like I said in an earlier post about writing negative reviews, time is being taken out of my schedule to read a book. I simply decided to drop this one so I could focus on another book I would personally find more enjoyable.
The Whizbang Machine – The Positives
But I think it’s unfair just to go on and drop the novel without noting the positives in it first. So let me say: I actually do find the mystery quite intriguing.
See, the Whizbang Machine is about Elizabeth and Jack Yale, a granddaughter-grandfather tandem who sets out to unravel the mystery about a typewriter that Jack brought home. Not any ordinary typewriter, mind you; it’s quite possessed, what with sparking occasionally and typing out mysterious phrases that float into the air like smoke. Literally. The more Elizabeth types, the more the machine reveals secrets that they must unravel so they can remove the family curse.
I think the part I liked the most was the scenes with the typewriter. I find machines working when they shouldn’t be creepy, and imagining a typewriter automatically spelling out “It’s a lie. All of it, a lie” again and again sends a chill up my spine. I think Danielle Vann did an excellent job keeping up the mystery and scary factor in that aspect. Plus, what’s the deal with the creepy woman in Elizabeth’s dreams? She’s definitely someone I’d want to stay away from.
Alas, even the mystery wasn’t enough for me to keep reading. And that’s because…
The characters made me give up on the book.
First off, I’d like to mention that Elizabeth is 15, but she sounds and acts like she’s 10 or something. I keep imagining her as a little kid before suddenly remembering that oh, wait, this is a YA novel and she’s older than how she acts or thinks. Seriously, she whines “I hate hospitals,” while stomping her foot, thus confusing me. My mind is a simple mind, okay? Don’t confuse me.
It’s not just that, though; Elizabeth is incredibly selfish. When her grandfather Jack is sent to the hospital, for example, she tells the paramedic attending to him that “please, he’s all he’s got.” Um, excuse you? Jack disappeared from your life for I don’t know how long and suddenly he’s all you’ve got? What about your mom who didn’t disappear from your life and took care of you after your dad (and the LOVE OF YOUR MOM’S LIFE, mind) died?
Now, see, I don’t usually mind selfish characters, but only if they’re acknowledged as selfish in the books. I don’t think the author intended for Elizabeth to sound bratty; the scene was supposed to be dramatic and touching and I believe I was supposed to feel for her. I did feel something: I felt like slapping her across the face.
Jack is also incredibly selfish for a man of sixty-something in age. He whines about how the hospital staff keep coming in and checking his vitals. Uh, yeah, because they are helping you get better. I keep rolling my eyes at his antics, using his granddaughter for self-centered means and then having the gall to act sad and heartbroken when she rightfully grows mad at him.
There are other things about the book that I didn’t like, such as weird formatting, the lack of tighter editing, and simple, so-so storytelling. But these are minor concerns compared to the irritation I felt with the characters.
In summary: A book with a cool mystery and annoying characters
Again, my opinion about the book might differ from yours. After all, this book is rated 4.27 in Goodreads as of the time of writing. The Whizbang Machine is not without its positives, especially the actual typewriter, which is the coolest thing about the book. Unfortunately, the two main selfish characters and the editing issues and so-so writing took away my enjoyment of this book.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
(Gifs taken from reactiongifs.com)