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 first read Panic in September of 2013. A friend had a copy and let me borrow it because I was beyond excited for a new Lauren Oliver book. I basically devoured it and when I was done I had mixed feelings. I wasn’t sure if I liked the book, hated the book or was just meh on it. Basically I was disappointed. You see, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series is my favorite of hers. As much as I loved Before I Fall, Delirium holds a special place in my heart. And when Panic was nothing like it I was bummed. As months passed and I read a bunch more books I started to realize I wasn’t really fair to Panic. I judged it on an idea in my head, a measure it couldn’t live up to, and decided I needed to give it the chance it deserved and reread it. Trust me people, it was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. Panic is pretty wonderful on its own and definitely deserves the time of day from me.
Basically Panic is the story of a game that is played in middle of nowhere New York with all the graduating seniors eligible to enter. Each round posses a new threat/challenge that presses on fears. The story is told from two POVs, Heather, a girl that never planned to enter, and Dodge, a guy that has been dreaming of this moment for a long time. Both characters have their own reasons and motivations for continuing on with the game even as things get dangerous. As they navigate the game, friendships, family life, and love, Heather and Dodge find out how strong they are and what is really a cause for Panic.
First and foremost, Lauren Oliver has some of the most beautiful writing in YA literature. She knows how to get her reader involved into a story and how to keep them reading. She writes in a way that gets you emotionally invested even if you don’t really want to be. She did it in Before I Fall and in Delirium and once again in Panic. I think this is because of the characters she develops. Heather was a really likable a character. She had faults and insecurities and hopes like any other 18 year old girl. She had her best guy friend Bishop, her best girl friend Natalie, and her sister Lily and they all made her who she was. But she was also afraid for anything good to happen to her as she was used to things being crap. Then you have Dodge, the silent guy that no one knew. Classmate that was the quiet guy everyone thought was weird. He had not many friends, a sister in a wheelchair and a mom trying to make ends meat. He would do anything for his family and was by playing panic. These two characters were so far from being alike that you couldn’t help being invested in both of them and that was mainly why I found the book more enjoyable this time around.
Why is this 4 stars instead of 5 you may be wondering. The truth, I had some problems with the actual game of panic itself. That was the part that I found unbelievable and what brought this story down some for me. A lot of it just felt too convenient and just used to move the plot further along. It felt very detached from a lot that was going on for me like it was a separate story all together and not 100% connected to some of the other stuff that was happening. I get that it was used to show how far these characters were willing to go and that makes sense, but something was just slightly off to me.
But honestly it is rare that I will reread a book that I didn’t love the first time I read it. I’m just not that kind of readers that gives second chances easily. But something in my gut told me not to give up on Panic and I’m glad I didn’t. It was different and intense and an interesting look at a small town social experiment. It was definitely no Delirium. But after reading it a second time, I’m okay with that. What do you have for us next Ms. Oliver? I’ll be waiting in anticipation.