There was a lot of potential for The Amanda Project but it just didn’t come together. I was intrigued by the plot and some of the plot points the story introduced, but there was a lot of stuff that kept it from being anything remarkable. The first major thing was the writing; it was very passive and there was a whole lot of telling and not showing. Whenever the main character Callie reacted to something, she would describe it as such: “What he just said made my stomach turn and I felt sick and nervous.” It’s always laid bare for us but there’s no describing how her emotions really impact her body or her thoughts. I never really felt drawn into the scene because of it and I never really felt connected to the characters in the way that I should have. Whenever Callie mentioned her missing mother I couldn’t bring myself to care, and that’s probably not the reaction I should have had. The dialogue was often very clunky and never felt particularly teenagerish, only the impression of what an adult thinks teenagers sound like these days. At one point Callie even internally thinks “OMG” after a cute guy says something to her. There was a lot of use of words such as “like” and “totally” in an attempt to sound like how a teenager would talk, but it just came across as kind of sad. Despite the issue with the writing I was rather interested in the story, which does turn out to have a lot of promise if only the writing weren’t so shaky. There turns out to possibly be a connection between Callie’s mother, who is missing, Amanda’s disappearance and the later attack of another character. I was actually interested in seeing where this could go, but the author spent much more time with Callie’s group of friends, the I-Girls (so named because each of their names ends with “I”. Yes, I do find this stupid and stereotypical) and that dragged the story down by a lot. In fact the entire book just feels like a big, 320 page prologue for the next book in the series. The basics are laid down and the set up is done, but it makes for a very boring read. The characters were rather flat and one dimensional. The only one I was really interested in was Nia, one of Amanda’s other friends, but she doesn’t really progress past the cold, snarky girl with issues stereotype. There’s also Callie’s other group of friends, led by Heidi, who all have about as much depth as a shallow puddle. They’re just the stereotypical “Mean Girls”, and they serve only as a cheap, easy way of giving Callie some very basic character growth. She realizes they aren’t really her friends, her life has changed, she joins new friends, Heidi promises she’ll be sorry, etc. I’ve seen it done before and it was old then, too. Also, this may just be a little nit pick and I don’t know that it’s ever stated what decade this takes place in (though I would assume somewhere in the 2000s), but at one point the three main characters ask someone else to build a website for them to help them find Amanda. This would be fine, except apparently these three modern day teenagers, who very likely grew up in the age of the internet, don’t even know what a domain name is. Or HTML. I can get not knowing how to build a website from scratch, and I would have been fine if Kantor had left it at the three of them not knowing that kind of advanced HTML. But then to have it so that they don’t even know the basics of internet stuff? It was beyond ridiculous and it really took me out of the story. Overall The Amanda Project is just an “okay” novel. It’s a very washed down mystery thriller for young adults, and I do mean washed down. The pacing is shaky, as is the writing, the characters are one dimensional and I could never really care about them. I was interested in what happened to Amanda and just who she was, and the connection between her, Callie’s mother and other plot points in the novel. Those were genuinely interesting and I wish Kantor had spent more time on them instead of other parts that just felt tacked on to bump up the word count. I may pick up the next in the series just to see how the mystery is expanded on, but it won’t be any time soon.