by Carolyn Hennesy
260 pages, Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books
Review by Melissa Conway
Pandora Gets Heart is the fourth in a series written by General Hospital actress Carolyn Hennesy. I picked this book despite not having read the first three because it had just been released and I was in a hurry at the bookstore. I’m often in a hurry at the bookstore and it usually means whatever I snatch off the shelf is going to disappoint me.
When I read the author blurb on the back flap, my heart sank. I thought, “Great, another ‘celebrity’ book, only published because the lady knew folks in the biz who wanted to capitalize on her fame.” The rest of the blurb perked me up a bit—anyone who teaches improv comedy and has studied the flying trapeze can’t be all that bad, right?
Then after the first few pages, I realized Hennesy is a ‘head-hop’ writer, bouncing around from one character’s thoughts to another. Head-hopping is considered a sin among modern writers—try Googling the term and see how many articles pop up advising against it. I expected Pandora to go downhill from there.
I was pleasantly surprised to find Pandora witty and fast-paced, and aside from a few places where the characters give each other meaningful looks that refer to something that happened in one of the earlier books, it wasn’t hard for me to jump right into the series. I liked it so much that if I can squeeze in some time, I might just go get the first three books.
Pandora is exactly who you think she is. In book one, she lets the Evils out into the world, and now she’s on a quest to find each one and put it back. Isn’t that a great premise? Each book is actually its own mini-quest to capture one Evil. In Pandora Gets Heart, she and her friends Homer, Alcie and Iole are off to find Lust. Now, this is a middle-grade young adult novel, so Lust is not what you might expect. Hennesy has toned it down and plugged Lust into the Apple of Discord. You may recall it was this enchanted apple that led, in a round-about way, to the Trojan War. Hennesy plays fast and loose with mythology, mixing and matching legends. This might create a whole generation of girls confused about Greek lore, or it might just inspire them to check out the classics. Either way, her interpretations make clever use of familiar themes.
The characterizations are amusing, with Pandy and her friends talking and acting like barely-teens in the here and now with some twists. Alcie ‘swears’ a lot, but her swear words are all fruits. “It’s all your figgy fault!” she exclaims. Iole is the smart one and Homer is a hunk. We get to meet all sorts of gods and goddesses and various other figures from days of old. The descriptions of ancient cities, palaces and temples really set the scene and the action is pretty much non-stop. Just like in the myths, these kids experience some hairy stuff, suffering the kind of pain and misery only the gods can dish out. The ending of Pandora Gets Heart, which I won’t spoil by hinting at here, actually made me shed a few tears.
Through her Pandora series for girls, Hennesy is reinventing the stories surrounding the heroes and villains of old. I hope some of her readers’ curiosity will be piqued enough to want to find out what Zeus and Hera and their ilk were really up to, but if not, they’re still getting a good read.