Holly's Reviews > Project Pandora

Project Pandora by Aden Polydoros
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Wow, wow, WOW. That was my immediate reaction once I finished reading Project Pandora. That was quickly followed up by oh, my heart! and oh no how long do I have to wait for book 2?! I was really blown away by this book, and if I didn’t know ahead of time that it was the *debut* of a young author, I would’ve sworn it was written by someone who had a fair amount of experience under their belt.

I will try to explain why I loved this book so much without giving too much away, because you really do want to experience this for yourself. Like I said, the writing is top-notch, and you’d have a hard time pointing to anything about Aden’s craft that would tell you he’s a debut author. The concept is also fantastic: a secret project run by some dastardly folks to create children programmed to rise to the top levels of the military and political systems who can be “activated” when the project needs them. And, oh yeah, they can also be activated to kill on command. I mean, how cool (yet frightening) is that idea? The plot raced along at a steady clip, too, interspersing action where the teens have been activated as assassins with research notes, flashbacks, and some truly gut-wrenching soul searching on the part of the teens.

The teens themselves - Tyler/Apollo, Elizabeth/Persephone, Shannon/Artemis, and Hades (just Hades) - each have distinct personalities and stories of their own that keep them from running together in the reader’s head. The adult “bad guys” are some truly awful human beings, and there is no love lost on the part of this reader, at least, for any of those folks. The teens, though... that’s a different story. These teens are morally ambiguous characters - none more so than Hades, who was hands down my favorite character - and the reader has to reckon with that ambiguity in deciding whether or not we will identify with and root for them.

Even though I’m in my low-forties, I read almost exclusively YA, and I often connect with the characters on a personal level; ie, I identify with them in thinking about the teen I used to be, who I was at that age. Reading this book, though, I identified more as a mother in comparison to these characters. I mostly felt an overwhelming desire to protect them; I started thinking of them almost like my own kids. I couldn’t stop imagining my own son (he’s only 9 yet) in a similar situation. I also kept wondering what these experiences would do to a person who is at such a vulnerable (on so many levels) stage in their lives and, most importantly, in their brain development. I also looked at the adult actors from my stance as a parent, wondering who could possibly do such things to any child in their care. It was an unusual and rare, if not entirely new, way for me to experience a YA book. There have been others where I connected on a maternal level with the characters, but they’re few and far between. The fact that this is a debut and evoked such an emotional connection from me just blows my mind.

I don’t want to say much more, because I feel like I’ll just keep repeating myself in saying how amazing this book is and how much it made me *feel*, which is something you might expect from a contemporary but not necessarily a thriller. Plus, I don’t want to give anything away, and I want each reader to approach it as fresh as possible. I do feel like I should mention, though, that this was actually a difficult book for me to read, and it is one that took me longer than normal. The main reason is because of the emotions it evoked, coupled with some of the themes explored in the book. The last book I remember absolutely loving while at the same time finding it very difficult to read was The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, which is another one of those rare books that I approached and read more as a mother than as a former teen or “just” a reader. I also want to note that there are a few scenes of abuse depicted in the book that were *very* difficult for me to read and reckon with, and I am someone who has no personal experience with child abuse. I just want to mention this as a possible trigger for some readers.

Overall, this was an incredible book, a slow-burning thriller that goes far beyond the action we see on the surface, probing an emotional depth that I wasn’t expecting. Project Pandora makes us consider what makes a person “good” or “bad” and how culpable someone may be for actions that are a result of brainwashing or programming. When I picked up this book, I wasn’t expecting to feel as if my heart was bleeding, and I cannot say enough about the talent of this author in being able to wring such emotions from me. I *still* just want to cradle Hades in my arms and tell him he’s worth so much more... ugh! My heart STILL hurts - and that’s the sign of an amazing book, in my opinion! I cannot recommend this highly enough, and I’m frankly a wee bit desperate for the second book now.

Rating: 5 gut-wrenching, heartbreaking stars!

Thanks so much to Entangled Teen for the early review copy, and to Chapter by Chapter for including me on the tour! This is my honest rating and review and is purely voluntary on my part.
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Reading Progress

May 21, 2017 – Shelved
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: 2017
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: arc
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: cover-love
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: august
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: debut
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: ebook
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: entangled-teen
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: given-for-review
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: must-have-own-copy
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: mystery-thriller
May 21, 2017 – Shelved as: series
July 29, 2017 – Started Reading
August 4, 2017 – Finished Reading
August 14, 2017 – Shelved as: 1-blogtour-chapterxchapter
August 14, 2017 – Shelved as: 1-i-was-part-of-blog-tour
August 14, 2017 – Shelved as: absolutely-loved
August 14, 2017 – Shelved as: oh-hell-yes
August 14, 2017 – Shelved as: netgalley

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