It’s been a bit since I wrote a review for a book so forgive me if I ramble on this one. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, that’s exactly how my brain was while reading this one… It wandered. A lot! But before we get into all of that, here’s some details about Willful Machines by Tim Floreen:
In the near future, scientists create what may be a new form of life: an artificial human named Charlotte. All goes well until Charlotte escapes, transfers her consciousness to the Internet, and begins terrorizing the American public.
Charlotte’s attacks have everyone on high alert—everyone except Lee Fisher, the closeted son of the US president. Lee has other things to worry about, like keeping his Secret Service detail from finding out about his crush on Nico, the eccentric, Shakespeare-obsessed new boy at school. And keeping Nico from finding out about his recent suicide attempt. And keeping himself from freaking out about all his secrets.
But when the attacks start happening at his school, Lee realizes he’s Charlotte’s next target. Even worse, Nico may be part of Charlotte’s plan too.
As Lee races to save himself, uncover Charlotte’s plan, and figure out if he can trust Nico, he comes to a whole new understanding of what it means to be alive … and what makes life worth living.
At 365 pages (I had the hard back edition), it’s not super huge but I swear I felt every page! I’m sorry but I don’t really have anything good to say about this one. The description was interesting so I was majorly hopeful. I was expecting something along the lines of a teen version of I, Robot, maybe with a little emotional drama. Yeah, not so much. Willful Machines was a mess from the beginning to end. First, let’s talk about the characters…
The main character, Lee, was annoying. There’s no other word for it. He was a whiny, scared, insecure little boy. Wo, to me should be this kid’s theme song. Seriously. I could’ve been okay with it if there was some progression, something to show that he was moving out of that and becoming a better person but no. Even at the end when he needed to man up, figure out who was behind the attacks, and save his friends, all he did was have this internal monologue about how he was afraid of this and couldn’t live without that. I was past over it by that point anyway.
Moving on. Everyone surrounding Lee were jerks. That’s the nicest way to put it without using profanity. So I suppose at least the author was consistent in that regard. Where was the support one should expect from family and friends? Was it so hard to have at least one nice, redeeming quality in any of them?! Dad was self absorbed, the Grandfather was past twisted (I mean keeping a metal femur above your fireplace?!), and the best friend was past snarky and dangerously embroiled in know-it-all, mean girl mode. Nico was the only one half way alright but he felt flat to me.
Now for the plot. It was a good idea. Actually, the premise was a great idea. Just maybe in the hands of another author. I felt like I was reading something written by a high schooler. Mr. Floreen felt the need to over explain everything. A prime example that comes to mind is when Lee tossed something and missed. Instead of just leaving it at that, Lee had to make some remark about his lack of sports skills. Because yeah, the reader can’t glean on their own that a clumsy, scared of the world, kid isn’t that great at throwing things. The whole book was like that. It was either too descriptive or too random. There was no in between. Even the supposed “romance” between Nico and Lee was a stretch to believe. No where did I really FEEL it! That plot device was just sort of there. I think it would’ve worked way better if they were just friends.
Ultimately, I just didn’t care, about the plot or the characters, and that made it a long and agonizing read. So as you can tell, I wasn’t a fan of this book. At all! I wouldn’t recommend it and gave it 2 stars on my Goodreads page. Why not 1? Because the only character I loved was Gremlin. I spent the 360+ pages waiting for his small moments. Can we get a story about him?! Please??
If you’ve read this book, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts.