April 11, 2014

Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Page Count: 408
Source: ARC from ALA
(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest
review. No favors were exchanged, my opinions are my own.)

First Reaction: Panic and tigers and danger, OH MY!
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 Source: Goodreads]


PANIC is a book about a town where nothing every happens aside from this game called Panic, put together every summer for recent graduates of the local high school to compete. Panic consists of a series of very scary tests, meant to shake things up and cause... well, a PANIC. The person who wins the final round in Panic - a game of driving chicken - wins the prize money (which adds up to a pretty serious six-figure sum).

Heather wouldn't take part in Panic, but then things get tough at home and she knows she needs to do something to support herself and her sister. Dodge, on the other hand, has only ever wanted to play Panic, to get revenge for his sister, who played Panic and came out paralyzed from the waist down for her troubles.

So... let's hope no one dies?

Stirring up a PANIC:

DUDES. You've read this one, right? Like, you've had the pants panicked off, yes? Because if you're looking for a book that's going to make your jaw drop and your brain freak out, this is the one.

So Heather decides to play Panic, first because her dummy of an ex-boyfriend makes her feel worthless, but then it becomes something much bigger when her mom proves to be a completely incompetent caretaker for Heather and her little sister. Dodge, on the other hand, is playing Panic for revenge. His sister was paralyzed from the waist down playing the same game years earlier and the little brother of the guy who caused said damage is Dodge's competition. Basically: Neither Heather or Dodge are messing around when it comes to Panic.

But Nat kind of is. Nat is Heather's best friend and the girl Dodge loves. I'm not even sure why we need her this book, except maybe as a lure to bring Dodge into the Heather-Nat-Bishop circle. She's a look-at-me, look-at-me girl who only stands to make the lives of these characters more complicated. Although, maybe that's her purpose. 

Bishop, on the other hand, tries to help. He doesn't want Heather playing Panic and is even sickened at the idea. He spends a lot of this book struggle with her position as a player in this game and, as you begin to realize why, your desire to scoop up all of these characters and move them to a new, less absurd town grows by leaps and bounds. But honestly, that revelation as well as half a dozen others make this book even more insane than you ever could have thought when you start - which is a tough thing to do, considering the summary.

Now, as much as I love all of the characters in this book - even Nat, I want to slap often, and especially Anne, the lady with the tigers who decides to help Heather make her life better - it's the Gaby-perceived-message that really makes this book stand out. See, Panic is supposed to scare people into quitting, leaving the bravest to win the game. In truth, Heather and Dodge each have their own issues that are much bigger than Panic. They can pretend and even rationalize that winning Panic will solve everything. But they really just need to hit rock bottom, realize their issues have nothing to do with Panic, get past it and start working on themselves/realizing that they don't have all of the answers. It's not easy, but it's a shift in mindset that is brought to life in a fantastically vivid way through this dual point of view novel. 

The long and short of it?

Plot: Very different, fairly terrifying, and made of personal struggle.
World Building: Y'know what was great about this book? The cops. They try to shut down Panic but couldn't really catch the kids. So many points for realistic-ness for that. And, yeah, I could imagine a bunch of teens in a small town being this bored.
Character Development: Heather, Dodge, Lily, Bishop, and maybe even Nat really come into their own in this book. And if I can say my least favorite character has some believable growth throughout, then it must be good.
Prose: I've never read a Lauren Oliver novel that wasn't made of delicious prose and I probably never will.
Would I Recommend This Book?: If you love realistic fiction, absurd life situations, suspense, a bit of terror, tigers (yeah, that's right, there are TIGERS in this book), and/or Lauren Oliver prose, you should read this book, like, yesterday.

What did you think was the overall message of the book? Did you like Heather or Dodge's story best? How do you feel about Lauren Oliver's writing style? Let me know all of the things in the comments below!