The Wells Bequest, by Polly Shulman (Nancy Paulsen Books, June 2013, MG).
Imagine a library that's a repository of things--old things, fascinating things, mundane things--that you could check out. That's the New-York Circulating Materials Repository, where a teenager named Leo has come to study the history of robots (and how cool is it that the library has the actual early automatons and proto-robots in the flesh, as it were?). But Leo is interested in more than robots--he's also more than a bit curious about time machines. He has good reason--he just saw one in action. And it was in his room, and tiny, and he was in it, shrunk down, with a beautiful girl. Neither time travel nor girls are part Leo's normal life, spent tinkering with gizmos and playing computer games, the youngest, and least stellar (or so he thinks), kid in a family obsessed with scientific accomplishments.
There at this strange and wonderful library Leo meets the girl he's going to travel through time with--Jaya, the head page. Leo begins to wonder what this wonderful library might have in the way of time-travel devices....and finds his way to the Wells Bequest, and H.G. Well's tine-machine. Because this library contains fictional devices, and the Wells Bequest is one of many collections from stories here in our world for real.
Leo knows he and Jaya are going to time travel....but he doesn't know why, and the time-machine in the library has never worked. But when one of the other library pages turns twisted, and starts threatening to use Nikola Tesla's death ray to destroy New York, obviously Leo and Jaya are going to have to find a way to go back to Tesla's time, and keep the secret of the death ray from being stolen.
A dash to London, to recover the miniature working model of Well's Time Machine as it materializes on its trip from the past, back to New York in Jule's Verne's miraculous steampunky ship, the Épouvante (from Master of the World), then off to 1895 New York, with the help of a handy shrink way....and then they must find Tesla while navigating the strange city of the past.
It is an excellent book, and pretty much has it all--the appealing, believable characters (not the bad guy so much, but Jaya and Leo), the really really cool premise of fantastical objects being real, and the shear fun of the way the premise and the plot combine. There's a bit of romance, which Leo angsts believably about, there are grown-ups actively involved (which makes the plot more believable), but not taking over from the smart young protagonists, and there's Mark Twain.
And Jaya's family is from India, making this multicultural sci fi/fantasy!
What more can one ask for? Indeed, right from the first chapters, I was pretty sure this was going to be a good one, and I wasn't disappointed.
The Wells Bequest is a companion to The Grimm Legacy, which first introduced the Circulating Materials Repository, and one of its more magical collections. But there's absolutely no need to have read that one first.
Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher