Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic book cover by Lauren Oliver.jpg

Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: contemporary YA
Publisher: Harper
DOP: March, 2014
Pages: 408
Stars: 4.5/5
ISBN: 978-0-06-229514-9

Each summer, a group of graduate seniors from Carp High play a dangerous and illegal game called Panic. The contestants of Panic have to rival with each other during a series of life-threatening challenges while being rated by two secret judges. The stakes are high as each person is faced by fear, competing for a ticket out of town: a jackpot of at least 50,000 dollars.

From the author of the Delirium series, Lauren Oliver, comes now a contemporary young adult fiction that will thrill you from the very first chapter. Written in two alternating point of views, Heather and Dodge take us on their journey while they participate in Panic. The Opening Jump immediately sets the tone of Panic and not knowing what I was in for, I buckled up and tried to be prepared for this roller coaster as much as possible. Considering that the back of the book reveals absolutely nothing about the story and the summaries circulating the internet were as mysterious as walking blindly into a foreign forest, I could be in for literally anything. I haven’t made up my mind yet whether this is a good thing or not.

A half-dozen challenges were scattered over the pages and although they were dangerous enough to keep me intrigued, I often felt disappointed afterwards. The excitement that I wanted to feel, thought I felt, didn’t meet up with the satisfaction I was supposed to feel after each challenge. It wasn’t because they weren’t thrilling enough, they were, I just never felt completely connected to the situation. There was alway something keeping me distanced from Heather’s emotional involvement. The only challenge that achieved to make me bit my nails and sit on the edge of my chair, was her personal challenge. At this point, the story definitely reached its peak. Every little piece of the puzzle fell on its rightful place and definitely added to the suspense. I could have screamed with frustration and fear, almost cried while reading what Heather had to do. It was so well written. So cleverly thought of that at this point, you know enough as a reader to know how upsetting it is, not only from Heather’s point of view but also from a reader’s point of view.

Bishop (Heather’s male best friend) was my favorite character. His concern for his friends, Heather specifically, was real and I felt so bad for him during most of the story that I wanted to hug him. There’s so much going on for him that you can only pick up from reading between the lines and I really love this in a story. Bishop was so much more than just a written character.
With this being said, I wasn’t particularly fond of Heather and Natalie (Heather’s best female friend). Natalie came out as flat, uninteresting and shallow. Lauren Oliver dealt with her in a very easy manner, almost as if she wasn’t interested in Natalie either, only needing another female to balance the story. Natalie uses the people close to her and that’s inexcusable. I expected for this to blow up in her face but it never happened. She was easily, unrealistically fast forgiven.
As I mentioned before, somehow I never could connect with Heather emotionally. Although I could empathise with was happening to her, it never triggered anything more. However, Heather wasn’t as flat as Natalie. Her motivations changed during Panic and it definitely made me root for her.

Even though Panic appears to be all about the game at first sight, I can assure you it goes deeper than that. It’s about people living in a dying town and being desperate to find a way out. This is not in the slightest dystopian (as so many people suggest) because cities are dying because of the crises. This is real. And it’s happening right now. There’s no government dictating the seniors to play Panic (as some people seem to compare this to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). It’s a choice. The desperation is real and Lauren Oliver combined this desperation with a game that only the most desperate people would play.

Panic is enjoyable to read but complicated and challenging enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. The very first chapter was so different compared to other stories that it had me hooked from the beginning. I couldn’t stop once I had begun and I would recommend it to anyone who’s into contemporary young adult and who wants a pinch of reality.

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