Monday, March 17, 2014

Review of Panic by Lauren Oliver

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.

(Summary from GoodReads)

I fell in love with Before I Fall when it first came out, and I’ve been searching for the magic I found in that book in Oliver’s later writing.  Panic is not the book that restored my faith in Oliver.

The setting is the best part of Oliver’s book.  As you’re reading, it’s obvious aware that Carp isn’t a town where our teen protagonists are going to find opportunity.  The descriptions are gritty and each emotion raw, and Oliver doesn’t shy away from issues such as poverty, drugs, and violence that permeate the community.  Most of the characters are desperate to escape and lead a better life.  Oliver's prose is also lovely, and I think some readers might connect with the characters.

Otherwise, there are major, major issues with believability here. Each character contributes cash to the prize for Panic every day, leading to a pretty hefty prize, which I just can’t buy.   People who are deep in poverty will be using what little they have on things they absolutely need.   Also?  Panic led to extremely serious for bodily harm in some people.  In small towns, deaths of young people are going to be long remembered and taken seriously, and Panic would have stopped years before it did.  There’s also a major believability issue with Heather and the farm she works on—I won’t get into it here, but you’ll know what I mean as soon as you encounter this detail.

I had further believability issues with the characters. I hate how Dodge really wanted to get revenge on Ray and the fact that his behavior wasn’t discussed more carefully.  He was wiling to go to extremes that suggested that maybe he should go to therapy, and it’s just challenging to believe more people didn’t help him think twice about acting the way he did.  By the way, whatever happened to Ray at the end of Panic felt pretty glossed over.

The setting is believable. I believe that characters can feel as stuck in a town like Carp as Heather did. I believe that these characters cared for each other and felt hope. I am, however, too irritated about the lack of believability to give this book more than one star. It just annoyed me the whole freaking time I read.  I think a lot of people appreciated the suspense, writing, and characters, but some people felt like me, so I’d check out reviews of readers you trust before picking this one up.

Other reviews:


  1. Darn it! I love Before I Fall. It's a book l reread once a year because it's on my favorites list. I'll still read Panic but I'm not expecting much.

  2. SAD. SADSADSAD. We already discussed this though so you know my feelings on it and vice versa. I totally understand why you couldn't believe it though. I think the only reason I could is because I grew up in a small town and we did some really crazy shit out of boredom, but I get it. Oh! And thanks for linking to my review!!



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