Allison's Book Bag

Review of Journey to Pandora’s Jar by Nicole Walters

Posted on: May 17, 2014

Mythology fantasies were made popular by Rick Riordan and his Olympian series and now the field is inundated. For that reason, I felt reservations reading yet another entry in the genre. However, Journey to Pandora’s Jar by Nicole Walters is such a lively tale and contains such multi-faceted characters, I found myself won over. Undoubtedly, it also helps that the story revolves around a lesser-known area of mythology. In Journey to Pandora’s Jar, thirteen-year-old Charis must help release the only spirit (hope) that remains trapped inside Pandora’s Jar or else….

Walters does many things right with Journey to Pandora’s Jar. The chapters are short, running between three and five pages, and so I found it easy to squeeze readings of Journey to Pandora’s Jar into even the busiest day. The chapters also action-packed, with lots of foreshadowing and unexpected twists, and so I also kept wanting to find time even a minute here and there to read just one more chapter.

The main characters of Charis and Gabe are cute and sympathetic. Charis at least seems to come from a positive home where her parents are a dynamic force in her life, something which is refreshing in fiction for middle-grade students. While Charis does represent yet one more of those characters whose destiny is to save the world, Charis is so awestruck and vulnerable from the responsibility that I ended up greatly liking her. As for the antagonists, they mostly come from the large pool of gods which Walters has to draw upon from Greek and Roman mythology, and so make for diverse villains.

Whether she writes about hotels or museums, school or home, heaven or hell, Walters evokes descriptions that make all of these varied places feel real. For example, second period buzzes with the chatter of students. Or for instance, Hades’ throne is decorated with the bones of men. Just as importantly is the atmosphere. In fact, it’s what first grabbed my attention and made my skin tingle: “Had Mr. Ward been paying closer attention when he walked into Storage Room 19, he might have noticed that the warm was just a little warmer and the black was just a little bit blacker than usual. That he didn’t notice these small yet horribly significant details was unusual….”

To wrap up what Walters does well, I also appreciate how deftly she handles the omniscient third-person view, wherein readers get to see inside the heads of…. Oh, pretty much anyone Walters desires. Then too, whenever I think that Walters is going to fall into the trap of relying on information dumps and other boring ways of imparting information, she tricks me by infusing her exposition with some of Charis’ amicable personality.

Obviously, Walters is pulling off the quite the juggling act. It’s hard to imagine that there are any flaws. But there are three which regularly annoyed me. First, I don’t understand Walters’ decision to call Charis’ parents by their names instead of just as her mom and her dad. Then there’s the matter of antagonists. For some reason, perhaps because it’s an inbred instinct of authors to include them, Walters throws in a potential romance between Charis with one of the popular boys in school and a potential rivalry between Charis and one of the popular girls in school. Not much comes of either of these, thankfully, which means I don’t know why Walters didn’t just leave them out. Last, in the all-important climatic pages, Journey to Pandora’s Jar becomes yet another entry in the current trend of novels to end without a real conclusion. Or basically to end with a teaser for the sequel.

The latter disappointment aside, Journey to Pandora’s Jar rightfully deserves the Mom’s Choice Award that it won. I can easily see it being considered as among the best in family-friendly media, products and services. It’s a delightful and positive entry to add to the middle-school shelves.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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