Panic by Lauren Oliver, expected March 4th 2014 (HarperCollins)
“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”
Firstly, let me start by saying: This is contemporary? Wha?
I went into this book convinced it was a good ol’ dystopian novel, or that it would play with the coat tails of science fiction.
Nope. I was wrong. This definitely contemporary.
Let’s do this. What did I like?
- Concept and setting – once I was over the shock of finding out it wasn’t an SF epic, I was really impressed by the way Oliver paints the scene and executes the action.
- Heather – Let’s just ignore how RECKLESS these teens are for a moment. Heather was a great character. We share the POV with her and Dodge, but I didn’t enjoy his sections as much as hers.
- Voice – I feel like Oliver captures a very believable young adult voice. It doesn’t try to hard to be ‘cool’ and there are no terrible clangers when it comes to slang.
- FEELS – If I’m honest, I was feeling pretty neutral about everything going on (which is crazy when you consider what is actually happening) but I was suckerpunched by the moment on the trampoline between Heather and Bishop. That was handled with great integrity and understanding.
What didn’t work for me?
- Panic – The game itself was somewhat problematic. I felt like it could have been put to a stop, without much fuss. But the adults of Carp are idiots, apparently.
- Panic – Ok, so let’s run with it. This crazy, reckless game goes on. But it wasn’t crazy ENOUGH. It seems the real danger was either conveniently removed, or was an accident (not going to give anything away here). The ending could have had a real BANG. But instead it fizzled, much like their failed sparklers from the 4th of July.
- Bishop – I struggled to ‘see’ him. Heather notes a change in him, but I can’t see it because I feel like his description and placement was neglected a little.
I really enjoyed reading Panic. It wasn’t a long read, and I did become invested in the characters and how it would all play out.
I think there is great attempts to include some healthy doses of reality: alcohol, relationships (familial and romantic), domestic abuse, drugs, disability, poverty. And I think this works to great effect.
The closing pages were a let down. It seems to be pointing at the whole game of Panic as a metaphor for growing up, and for life itself. It made me think that it was a rather long-winded way to explore a well worn cliché. ‘Life’s a risk! Jump in! Make mistakes!’ Not to mention the saccharine Happily Ever After that felt fake, even if it was well deserved. It should have at least ended with someone with a leg in a cast! Let’s get crazy!
Panic will please Oliver fans. It’s different. And I like different. A lot. A really intelligent use of character interaction and how initial perceptions can be wrong. All in all it was a pleasing read.
I’m happily giving this 4/5. Action packed, and compelling. But not quite ticking all the boxes for me.
P.S. Don’t feed the tigers. 😉