Small Town Horrors
by John Coon, 2018
In the edition I read, there are periodic formatting problems, causing paragraphs to get scrunched. It's annoying, but not so bad as to ruin the book. I mentioned this to the author, and he said he's working to fix it.
“Pandora” reads well, is fast-paced, has likable characters, but these characters are teenagers, who speak like adults a bit too often. I've read worse though.
Ron is the new kid in town. Ron is not a perfect hero—he hates his new town, has racing hormones, and he treats his mom like dirt. But he's a teenager, and some of that is to be expected. He looks like he'll grow out of it. He has nice friends, though: Casey, the nerdy guy who believes the town is cursed and Christina, the hot girl with a secret. And then there's Dean, a vagrant with an even bigger secret.
I like the sudden shift from Ron to his kid brother in Chapter 9. Having younger kids face the horror makes it even scarier.
Coon tends to have things happen that aren't immediately clear, and can lead to confusion. I suspect he does this on purpose, for dramatic effect, because the explanation usually follows only a couple paragraphs later. It's a style choice that I would not use, but some will not mind it.
But the scene where the kids discover the human heads—and then keep exploring—almost ruined the book for me, as it seemed so out of character. If I discovered a cache of human heads, I would turn tail and run out of that place. That's not even being squeamish; that's just being prudent. A police office might expect to find something like that, from time-to-time; the rest of us would not.
Aside from that one scene, it's a good book. The reveal of the monster's identity is quite a surprise. All in all, a satisfying read.