Author: Lauren Oliver
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Summary: Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.
Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.
For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.
The concept of Panic seemed really unrealistic to me at first. Maybe it’s because I don’t live in a tiny town where something like this goes on, but it just doesn’t seem likely to me. I just can’t imagine that so many people play and support a game where death is very likely and where if anyone breathes a word of it, they get nearly beaten to death and their car smashed apart. The whole time that things like this happened, people were just totally unaffected and okay with it. I found that whole situation to be weird, like everyone was brainwashed into thinking that this was acceptable.
The thing I enjoyed about this book was that it has very realistic characters. There was Heather, who made a spur of the moment decision to join, after seeing her boyfriend with another girl. She stays in the game out of desperation, to save her and her sister from living with their drug addicted, shit excuse of a mother. Heather was the type of girl, that you looked at her life and saw how it turned her into the person she was. You could see how she was shaped by her bad living situation, by her awful mother, and a lot of her decisions were based around trying to get away. I liked her because you really see her grow and become stronger as the game goes on, and you see her become more confident in herself and what she wants.
Then there is Dodge, the boy who wants revenge. His sister competed before and lost the use of her legs after a boy sabotaged her car. Dodge is driven by revenge, his “secret”, which isn’t much of a secret because you know what it is almost right off the bat. But you can see how he changes as the chance for revenge gets closer and closer. I liked that his drive to win was dark, to get revenge, to destroy a life for destroying his sisters. It made me like him for his determination and loyalty.
The character I really had a problem with was Nat, Heather’s best friend. She was just awful and I felt no sympathy or connection to her what so ever. She sucked right from the start, as a competitor, as a friend, as a love interest, but she just leeched onto everyone. I hated her and her rotten tricks and how stuck up and childish she was.
This book is definitely kind of slow paced, since it feels like most of the challenges are internal, more psychological. I was a little disappointed by this because I was hoping to read about this competition, to see people actually compete, but that was only a tiny piece of the story. The competition itself was pretty anticlimactic, usually over within a few pages, if that, and a majority of people got eliminated just by chickening out. I did like though that it seemed like pretty fair odds, nothing was really overly physical, so someone who wasn’t as strong would lose. It focused mainly on overcoming your fears and being ballsy.
Setting and atmosphere was a big part of what made this book successful. The claustrophobic feeling of a small town like this, where everyone knows everything, it played a big part in giving Heather determination to win. She wants to leave this town, leave this people, leave everything behind. There are clear social differences, from people living in Meth Row, to those in their cookie cutter houses with white picket fences. It really creates a feeling that makes you understand exactly why Heater wants to leave so badly, why people play this deadly game for a chance to win a ticket out.
The romance in this book wasn’t bad, it just fell a little flat for me. It was predictable, but non of this insta-love crap, it was more of a slow build that I could understand and relate to. I just found that it felt a little awkwardly placed at times. Also, Dodge, being a teenage boy, had a problem with thinking perverted thoughts all the time. He was constantly aware of boobs and thinking of his love interest being undressed and it was a little out of place the few times a random dirty thought would pop into his head. Understandable, but out of place.
Overall, Panic was by no means a bad book, just not necessarily what I was expecting or looking forward too. The psychological study was interesting and I actually enjoyed it, but the pace could have definitely moved a little quicker. The problem was that this book didn’t really leave me with a sense of anything when I finished it, there was no impression left by this story. A quick, easy read, interesting at times, but pretty forgettable.