Saturday, April 12, 2014
Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver
Panic is a game played by graduating seniors in the little town of Carp, New York. It takes place over the entire summer and consists of competition against other students as well as individual challenges. Everyone is sworn to secrecy about the game, and bad things happen to anyone who breaks the code. Heather Nill grew up in a trailer park and doesn't have much going for her- when her boyfriend dumps her and takes up with another girl, Heather figures she has nothing to lose and impulsively jumps (literally) into the game. She is joined by her best friend Nat and Dodge, a loser who has his own reasons for playing- and playing hard.
The story is told from the viewpoint of both Heather and Dodge, and the story intersects between them and their friends as they navigate the minefield of Panic. I could relate to both Heather and Dodge, they have a hard life and not much to look forward to- so why not play? Of course the stakes get high and they will both have to make some tough calls that will affect them and everyone around them as well. Heather's friend Bishop at times reminded me of Levi from Fangirl for some reason- he's just one of those nice guys. Although in this book there are a lot of secrets and not everyone is as they appear.
Lauren Oliver touches on a lot of things in this story- the decaying small town feel of Carp, the hopelessness of those with few options, and the teens think like real teens- it's at times hilarious to hear their thoughts about their loser parents and the other dysfunctional people in this town. Nat has OCD issues and that was a nice touch, to show the challenges that can present to a young person.
Panic is set in the here and now and is not a science fiction tale at all. It's just a story of some kids who are desperate and take some chances, for all kinds of reasons. This book grabbed me right from the get-go and kept me turning the pages- while I occasionally thought the character motivations to be a bit farfetched, it was mostly pretty plausible. Although I do think in real life the cops would have shut this down way before it gets to the point it does.
I highly recommend Panic for anyone who wants a fast paced, thrilling and often sobering look at a game that gets way out of control. I blew through this and thought it was great, if a bit unrealistic at the end.