Title: Pandora Jones: Admission
Author: Barry Jonsberg
Genre: YA Dystopian
Opening lines: ‘…It took 8 hours for Melbourne to die…’
Blurb: Pandora Jones wakes in an infirmary – her body weak, her memory providing only flashes of horrific scenes of death. She soon discovers that her family has succumbed to a plague pandemic which almost wiped out humanity. Pan is one of the survivors who have been admitted to The School – a quarantined, heavily guarded survival-skills facility – to recover their strength, hone their skills and prepare for whatever comes next. Pandora’s skill is intuition, but how useful will it be outside the secure walls of The School? Pandora must trust her instincts if she is to stay safe. And her instincts suggest that The School is hiding secrets.
My thoughts: The worst thing about PANDORA JONES: ADMISSION is that it is utterly, utterly believable! It also leaves you looking over your shoulder when you hear someone sneezing nearby. Because that is how Pandora’s world has ended – a virulent mutant flu spreads the globe in days and just about everyone is gone.
Pandora tells the story, and the first little bit of the book is about her experience of what happened that day – the day the world ended. She starts with breakfast the last morning that her family is together, the start of the eight hours it took Melbourne to die when flu hits downunder; she describes her day at school, coming home and then violence on the street until everything goes black as a machine comes towards her along with people in uniforms. The recollections are disjointed and confusing – short, blunt, simple sentences – clipped and unfinished. Just a quick summary of events, or half remembered events, dream sequences even, but no one memory complete or clear enough for Pandora to grasp and say this is what actually happened. When she wakes up after her black out she finds that she is locked away in a secure training school with other teens who have all survived, and all have similar disjointed recollections. But what have they have actually survived, and why have they survived is not clear. Just what is the school hiding from them? Pandora is assigned to a group of other newly arrived teens to commence training to equip them all for a new world on the outside. As the opening sentence indicates, Pandora comes from Melbourne, but other students come from Singapore and New Zealand, and it is never really explained where the school is located – and how the international teens got there. Mention is made of a chopper, but is there one that can do those distances in a newly dead world? Pandora herself is a very believable character – she thinks like a teen and acts like a teen – she lusts after the good-looking boy and dislikes those who are mean to her. She is not a super fit heroine, but pants when she has to do a lot of running, however she is smart and she is brave.
PANDORA JONES: ADMISSION is not just another YA Dystopian story – there is mystery, suspense, action and a touch of paranormal because Pandora has a heightened sense of intuition, and is able to locate missing things. Sounds out of place but is actually totally believable. While most of the other members of her group seem to accept their fate, Pandora starts to ask questions, and through her others start to question as well. Things just don’t add up, such as why they are told it is too risky to go out scavenging when the staff appear to be making contact and trading with people living on the outside? Why does everyone in the dormitory have nightmares that keeps them moaning and screaming in their sleep – and it appears to be the same nightmare? And they all seem to have the same elusive last hours memories that reoccur as these nightmares! As the story continues and the reader along with Pandora tries to puzzle out what on earth is going on because as the story twists and turns there seems to be more questions raised than answered. At times the school is a little creepy and the teachers – well plain weird – but this all adds to the mood of the book and it is just great! There is a lot packed into this book, and not a heap of world building because for Pandora and the other teens inside the school there is no world other than the school. Until one day her group is told they have a task on the outside. What a task it is too – and what about the ending – wow – what a cliff hanger, did what I thought happened actually happen!! Thank goodness the next book is due out soon because I really, really need to know what is going on! The second book ‘Pandora Jones: Deception’ is set to be released in October 2014 and the final book ‘Pandora Jones: Reckoning’ in May 2015.
I would certainly recommend PANDORA JONES: ADMISSION as it keeps you guessing, keeps you on the edge of your seat and keeps you wanting more
Rating: A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it..
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With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $17.99