Published by HarperCollins on March 4th 2014
Genres: Young Adult
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Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand 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. 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; hes 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.
Life in Carp, New York is dreary and hopeless, and graduating seniors Heather Mills and her best friend Natalie Velez can only dream of getting out. The day after graduation, Heather and Nat declare their participation in Panic, a secret game where the winner walks away with the prize money and the losers can hopefully still walk.
I’ll start by sharing what I really liked about Panic – the story itself is gripping, with equal parts drama and action, and I read it so fast I re-read parts of it just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Lauren Oliver definitely knows how to hook you in, and she doesn’t let go until you’ve finished the last word.
The game itself is wicked and crazy, something like a mash between The Hunger Games and Survivor. Its unpredictable nature and high danger factor makes me wonder how this game’s been played more than a few times. I mean, where were all the adults? It’s not like Carp’s a huge metropolis where it’s easy to lose track of your kids, even the teenagers… Plus, the game takes place throughout summer, and most of the graduating class plays. I know adults don’t always know what the teenagers are doing, but for months at a stretch? A bit sketchy there, I think.
I’m a bit ambivalent about the characters. Heather was ok – she’s not terribly complicated nor complex, but I understood her need to leave Carp, and her humanity came through as she took care of her little sister. Other than that, she’s pretty bland. I guess that means she’s a normal kid, and maybe I shouldn’t expect all my novels’ characters to be something special? Which Dodge wasn’t, by any definition of the word. He’s angry and hurt and looking for payback, and it took a really long time for him to realize he’s playing Panic for all the wrong reasons. As for Heather’s best friends Nat and Bishop, well…Nat’s self-centered and all about herself, and Bishop’s a bit sanctimonious, telling Heather she should quit the game – without understanding why she’s playing it in the first place.
At the end of the day though, Oliver had me hooked on the story from the very first page. There’s so much drama and action, that before you know it you’re done with the last word and wondering where the time went. Pick this up if you’re in the mood for a fast-paced story of desperation and the lengths to which some will go to try and escape life as it is, in hopes of better.
drey’s rating: Excellent
Have you read Panic? What did you think?