After reading the immensely wonderful, yet epically harrowing A Small Madness for the first stop on my Aussie YA odyssey, I thought I’d give myself something a tad less taxing for my next destination.
This is from the website for Pandora Jones: Admission:
“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? And what if it leads her to question where the truth lies…
Plague. Pandemic. Intuition. Secrets. Truth. Courage. Action. Survival.”
I’m an enormous fan of Barry Jonsberg. I’ve read all of his previous novels and saw him as something of a kindred spirit in our quirky outlooks on life. I not long ago read My Life as an Alphabet and was utterly entranced by it. I loved it humour and its heart and the way it examined “the big stuff” – as I try to do – with a light and tender touch.
I knew the Pandora Jones series was different. I knew it was dystopian, but I somehow had it in my head that it was meant to be a funny, kooky take on the genre. I thought it would be a happy, easy read.
Maybe the words “horrific scenes of death” should have given me pause but, you know, I’m an eternal optimist.
Then, a couple of pages in, people’s heads started exploding. Lungs were coughed up. Olympic swimming pools of blood were spewed out of various body cavities. Small children died. People shot themselves.
Not so much of the fun and kooky, then.
I’m no good with violence. Totally squeamish and wussy, me. So I really had to force myself to read on past these first chapters of utter carnage.
And good golly am I glad I did. Pandora Jones: Admission might not be the easy read I thought it was going to be, but I kind of liked it more for that. It felt real, plausible, chillingly possible. The dystopia Jonsberg creates is so nuanced and realistic that I had actual nightmares in which I was inside it. I was at The School. And i was nowhere near as capable and fierce as Jonsberg’s protagonist, so I kind of sucked at it.
This book is a page-turner in the true sense of the phrase. I found myself desperately seeking out slivers of time in my day in which to gobble up a few more pages. I was desperate to know what happened: what was real, what was fake, who I could trust. I was terrified that I wouldn’t discover all the answers.
Which, of course, since this is the first in a trilogy, is exactly what happened.
I have to move on to Victoria for my next stop – this time to the last in a trilogy, from the uber-amazing Ellie Marney. I’ve been looking forward to Every Move since I finished Every Word, and hopefully I’ll get my answers in this one. I’m thrilled to have this next on my list …
But I think I might have to sneakily read book two in the Pandora Jones series very soon.
Damn you, but gotta love and salute you, Mr Barry Jonsberg.