I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Panic by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on March 4th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, YA
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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.
I’m left feeling torn on this one. On the one hand I though it was an exciting and well written story about desperation, friendship, and wanting to prove yourself. On the other hand, the game Panic’s frail, yet apparently enduring, nature was not very realistic considering the risks, keeping me emotionally detached, and I did find the plot ended up being fairly predictable.
Panic is a game where facing often life-risking fears can win you a small fortune – 50,000$ worth. Absolutely interesting and full of adrenaline, but you do have to suspend disbelief in some areas. Mostly by how poorly managed it seems. For a game that wins you over 50k and involves you playing Russian roulette among other things, who are these people trusting? Kids do stupid things for less all the time, but these stakes are extreme and we know that Heather, for one, is doing it for the money – for her sister. Don’t they wonder what’s stopping this secret leader no one knows about from running off with the 67k? Then at one point, two of the players decide to take the game into their own hands and put some of the players through solo challenges, eliminating them, and it was apparently okay. It was all very unfair and disorderly. Plus, especially for a small town that normally has involved communities, I find it hard to believe that parents and cops would be oblivious to the game’s existence and not press to get this stopped. I mean, kids are dying, getting paralyzed, burnt, drowned, not to mention the harm they’re putting others in by crossing the road blindfolded in front of unsuspecting families and such. It’s not as if they were so good at being secretive either – scrawling their meeting times on a water tower is not exactly inconspicuous. There are a lot of gray areas you have to overlook.
The writing was wonderful, as I expected. I was a big fan of Before I Fall for the depth and meaning of the story, and I saw this here as well. The desperation is obvious; the need for Heather to be a part of something big, reckless. To stand out for once. To take control. The pressure, anxiety, and adrenaline rush from each dare is also unmistakable. I found myself holding my breath more than once. She’s a strong willed person that I liked to root for. I also sympathized with her family situation that drove her to keep going. Desperation is a strong force and this is well displayed here in both narratives. Dodge is our other main character who’s a bit of a loner and in the game for revenge. He harbors a lot of anger, turning him into this intense character. I did find he could be inconsistent at times, making it difficult to fully grasp his personality, but he was quite interesting! Although I have no clue what he saw in Nat or why he was even attracted to her, aside from her appearance. She was not very nice to him, useless and a drag in this game, even double-crossing her best friend. She did get better towards the end, thankfully. Bishop did not get enough face time for me to feel like I really knew him. I did appreciate the romance blooming from his and Heather’s long-time friendship, though, but what changed her mind from “it would be like kissing my brother” to being in love with him remains unclear.
My review may list the less than positive aspects from this book, but I did enjoy it overall. Above all, I liked the psychological aspects surrounding this game, as well as the depth and dramatic intensity of both the characters and plot. I liked that it looked into fear as being something you can, and sometimes have to, conquer. I was hoping for a more tragic ending, though, but I was overall satisfied by the reality TV-esque fun rush that I got from this novel.
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