Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Description 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.

My Review
First off, I feel the need to say that this is NOT The Hunger Games. This book is getting a lot of really unfair comparisons to the Hunger Games. It's a stand alone novel, it's not about kids being forced to fight to the death, and it's not dystopian. 

Now that that's out of the way...

Panic IS about a group of just graduated high schoolers, playing a game that will earn them a chance to score a pot of money to use on what they so choose. The entire student body pools their money ($1.00 a day for every day school is in session), and the winner takes all. Minus a cut that the judges get (of which there are two).  Panic is a "risk your life" type of game (but not one where people necessarily die), where every new challenge is designed to eliminate a player from the game, until only two remain. They then compete in the Joust, and one emerges the winner. 

The book switches perspectives between Heather, and Dodge. Heather decides to "jump" (the first challenge) after seeing her boyfriend kissing another girl. You might think that is pretty shallow but as you get to know Heather through the story, you realize this girl has been abandoned one too many times.
Dodge makes the jump for revenge- his sister played in Panic and was crippled in the Joust. 

But this story is about so much more than just the game of Panic. It's really about a bunch of bored teenagers from a falling apart small town USA who create a game that will give someone the ability to get out. Because people rarely get out of small town USA (Or, Carp, as this town is called, and it didn't miss me that Carp is an anagram for Crap). It's about the lengths people will go just to have the chance to leave a bad situation, or make a bad situation better. 
And it is tense- there was palpable tension throughout the whole story, to the point where once I was sitting in bed, completely up right, clutching the book so tight my hands started going numb. 

Ultimately, one person does win Panic. After all the challenges and tension, someone wins. And it's a satisfying ending. The reader won't be left with any unanswered questions, and the characters stayed consistent enough throughout that when the ending is reached, you're not left feeling like the author just wrote something to have it done. It's a complete novel.

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads. It was entertaining, interesting, and more thought provoking than I thought it would be. I've been a fan of Lauren Oliver since I read Before I Fall (which I gave five stars on Goodreads, and is a wonderful book), and was left slightly disappointed after reading the Requiem Trilogy. So I'm glad to see her back with a really good, stand alone YA novel. 

You can purchases the Hardcover of this book here, or a Kindle copy here.

FTC: I borrowed this book from my local library. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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