Author: Lauren Oliver
March 4, 2014
Genres: Young Adult ♥ Contemporary
Summary from Goodreads: 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.
Average Goodreads Rating (as of 02/07/2014): 3.75
- This was wholly original and pretty good. It goes on her second shelf.
**SPECIAL NOTE:** An eARC of this title was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.
♥ Initial Thoughts and Rating: Actual rating of 3.5 stars! It took me forever to decide between 3 and 4 stars. This isn’t anything spectacular, but it is definitely good and different from anything that I’ve read recently (ever before, maybe?). I think what ultimately boosted the rating is that her writing is just so well done; it flows easily and keeps you turning the pages.
♥ The Lowdown: Welcome to Carp, New York, a small town where everyone knows everyone and their mother, the rumor mill is running flawlessly, and where boredom brings about dangerous games. The origin of Panic is unknown, but the rules are quite simple and unbreakable. The game begins at the end of every school year, when summer starts and all those fresh-faced graduating seniors are set to face the world. The only people that can play are the seniors, and they’re all eligible because the buy-in has been a dollar a day for every school day from every senior regardless of your intentions to participate or not. There are two secret judges to host the competition and they must remain anonymous. Lastly, and most importantly, there can only ever be one winner.
Most seniors participate in it for the sake of tradition and for the thrill of the game, but with the jackpot sitting at a cool sixty-seven grand, a lot of them are in it strictly for the money. When the stakes get high, people aren’t above making alliances, breaking friendships, crossing a few blurred lines, and downright cheating to secure the win, consequences and possible loss of life be damned.
♥ My Thoughts: Panic almost felt like a YA version of Fear Factor in book format. The plot was original–though a bit predictable throughout to me– and it kept me turning the pages until I had finished it in just a few short hours. I could easily imagine something like this happening because I’m from a small town similar to Carp where we made up BS games all the time just to break up the monotony of our dull teen existence. (It was never anything as crazy or dangerous as this. It usually just involved people having to be naked at some point or another. Ahhh, memories, but I digress…) There were moments during the game that had my pulse thrumming and other times that reminded me of youth and ignorance. Overall, the game aspect of this novel made it feel new and somewhat fun. On the downside, I feel like when the secrets came to light, it didn’t make a huge impact with me because I felt like I had known them already from the beginning, and that took out some of the enjoyment for me.
As for the characters, this story is told in alternating dual POVs of Heather and Dodge. Initially, Heather is fueled to make the initiation plunge because of her breakup, but soon discovers that her motives might not have been so transparent. Living with an alcoholic, drug-abusing mother and little sister, Lily, Heather desperately wants out of Carp, and wouldn’t that reward be a nice jumpstart for her future. Like she states herself in the book, that much money could buy a whole lot of gas. For Dodge, he always knew he’d play the game, but he was never interested in cashing out at the end. His reward would be something entirely different and based on events that happened earlier in his life. He only wanted revenge. Along the way, we meet a few other side characters, but no others play a more important role than Bishop and Nat, Heather’s best friends and the potential love interests for our two main characters. While all of these characters were likable (and somewhat unlikable) in most instances, I never really found myself connecting with any of them. I always felt like I was missing out of some of their depth, and that flatness was also one of the key reasons I couldn’t give this title a higher rating.
To me, Oliver’s strongest asset was her ability to make me buy into this plot and these characters even when I wasn’t necessarily falling in love with either. Without a doubt, she has a talent in how she delivers her story, enticing her readers and their senses with an effortless prose and dialogue that flows naturally and makes them feel very much a part of the book. It was for this reason that I couldn’t help turning the pages. She kept me wanting to know more simply because of the way she writes.
♥ Rec It? Maybe? This book definitely won’t be for everyone. Actually, I’m still kind of on the fence about my feelings on it. While I liked the thrill of the game, it was difficult to fall in love with the book because I found that I could anticipate what would happen in the book, as far as the plot and characters were concerned, well in advance of it actually happening. That being said, while this book was my first read of this author’s work, it won’t be my last. Lauren Oliver’s storytelling and writing were fantastic, and I’ll be on the lookout for more.
♥ A very special thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for providing me with an early copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.