We’ve seen this theme before so it is all in the writing whether the story succeeds or fails. With Project Pandora, the technique is fine and the story flows smoothly. But it is also a book of unrelenting grimness and terrible apathy – there is no glimmer of hope here, no relief from greedy/crooked/broken figures to offset the bleakness of the world. For that reason, I can say that the book is decently written but also not a story I wish to continue further.
The book follows four teens who are experiencing troubles in their lives along with memory loss. Tyler is an orphan living with a foster family, Shannon deals with mean girls and a jaded goth best friend, Elizabeth was in a car accident but deals with disaffected political parents who care only for appearances, and Hades is the walking wounded – a boy tortured physically and mentally for the sake of an organization who raises perfect kids from embryos and then molds then to their bidding. Tyler, Shannon, and Elizabeth will soon find out what Hades already knows – that they are all assassins and have been carefully conditioned to obey without hesitation when a murder needs committing.
Most of the book is the build up of the characters learning about the Pandora Project and how they exist within it. Which means we get a lot of murders and skulking, memory loss and questioning. Because this is YA, Shannon has a crush on Tyler while Hades Stalks Elizabeth through her incarnations. But the romance isn’t the raison d’etre of the story – it is what compels Hades to be more than a broken shell but it isn’t what can ever save him.
Those looking for nuanced characters won’t find it here. EVERY adult is evil/uncaring in their own way. All the other kids in the book are mean or disaffected/disenfranchized in some way. Loose sex, drugs, etc. are devices to ‘show’ that they are unhappy teens acting out on others. Our main characters are cyphers – cryptic to show that even they do not know themselves.
There were weak points in the story telling. E.g, doing a ‘love story’ where the two characters are code named Hades and Persephone is rather obvious. As is the pairing of Apollo/Artemis. The Pandora project itself is risible and choices made by the characters are very deus ex machina to create a plot device/drama. The murders we see happen are to bad people who have done bad things to our heroes already – an easy out.
If you don’t mind a healthy dose of pessimism and gloom in your books, you will likely enjoy the tale of teens learning they are murderers. Just don’t expect a fluffy YA romance in there. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.