Review: Panic

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: PanicPanic by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on March 4, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central
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three-half-stars

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.

Prior to reading Panic, I was tilting dangerously towards a reading slump. Honestly, I was nervous, because the reviews on this one have been mixed, and, when I’ve been blacksheeping the books everyone loves, how could this go well? Actually, Panic was just what I needed. It’s fast-paced, high octane, and a definite page-turner. Panic was the perfect antidote to a series of boring books that were sending me to the doldrums.

Panic centers on a game called Panic, in which seniors who have just graduated from school participate in a series of dares of escalating difficulty to win a huge pot of money. It’s been happening for years in their town, and is essentially like Fear Factor, only without all the safety nets to prevent death. Let’s get out of the way my skepticism about something this large in scale not having been caught in years prior, given how loud and obvious the teens are about it. However, it’s really interesting and I am totally willing to let that slide, sit back and enjoy the ride.

The game itself, however, I do mostly find believable, aside from the fact that they’re not nearly subtle enough for adults to not lock it down. The fact that teens would do absurdly dangerous shit for money is completely believable. I mean, teens will do completely dangerous shit FOR FREE, so a sixty thousand dollar pot would be pretty tempting. Actually, that’s the other thing I was confused about, because most of the people in this town seemed pretty poor, but the teens were paying a dollar per school day into the pot? Again, whatever, moving on.

Now, I was totally not one of those kids that would do any of these things. Hell  to the no to playing chicken with cars or crossing a board and risking falling to my death. Even the inaugural challenge of jumping off a cliff into water, which is fairly safe, I wouldn’t do because of the vertical climb to get there. My friends weren’t these people either, but I still heard stories about what the cooler kids would do, like throwing stale donuts at cars, knocking mailboxes down with cars, and drag-racing (one such incident resulted in a girl at my school going to jail for manslaughter). None of these people made money for this, so they sure as heck would have played Panic for thousands of dollars.

Oliver tells the story through two third person limited perspectives, Heather and Dodge. The characters are, as expected, not the most likable in fiction, but the cast is interesting, which is the most important thing. Oliver also gave them some depths, back story to explain why they’re taking part in Panic that makes them a bit more sympathetic. People have motivations for their actions, which is always nice in fiction.

Panic has almost constant action and excitement. I called one of the twists, but then it added some nice dramatic irony. Though it’s 400 pages long, I devoured Panic, and it didn’t feel long at all. This isn’t remotely the kind of book I was expecting from Lauren Oliver, but I do like when author’s surprise me, and I really wanted an action-oriented read at this particular time.

Though I really enjoyed reading every page, I’m still not really sure what the point was. The ending verges too closely on an HEA and I’m not really comfortable with how few consequences result for all the people who participate in Panic. Sure, some really bad things happen, but for the scale of this completely idiotic game? Not really. Oliver does keep it from being a complete HEA, but, for all the heavy issues raised, the ending was a bit Noxzema commercial.

The other hesitation I have with Panic is the tigers. Now, I love tigers, but I don’t feel like they were really necessary here. I was somewhat skeptical about Anne, who is this awesome woman, taking in the tigers illegally anyway, but then the way they were used in the plot was even more upsetting. <spoiler>They are of course used as one of the Panic dares, after which the gate is left open. One of the tigers gets shot when it’s found eating a dog, and the other is around for a really cheesy ending to the final showdown that made me craugh angrily.</spoiler>

Do you like reality shows where people do stupid, dangerous things for money? Panic is that in book form. It’s a fun, fast read that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This might not be the best choice for those who like their fiction firmly grounded in reality or their characters likable.

Favorite Quote:

But that was another thing you learned when playing Panic: people would surprise you. They would knock you on your ass. It was practically the only thing you could count on.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Slimy, yet satisfying. (Do you love my Fear Factor reference? DO YOU?)

Slimy, yet satisfying. (Do you love my Fear Factor reference? DO YOU?)

12 responses to “Review: Panic”

  1. Arshia says:

    Huh O.o That’s surprising, given that I barely made it through Delirium and DNFed Pandemonium.
    I love it when authors surprise me too, and I have a fetish for characters I dislike. Looking For Alaska, Perks of Being A Wallflower, TFiOS, I hated the characters, but I loved the story.
    Arshia recently posted…So, What’s The Sitch?My Profile

  2. This surprises me! For a reason, I thought you wouldn’t like this book. I actually disliked this book a lot and I ended up giving it 1 stars – only because I managed to finish it. I still like the whole idea of teenagers doing crazy stuff for money, but I think it’s mainly because of that question ‘what is the point?’ But, I’m happy it got you out of a slump 😀
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 232. Rick Yancey – The 5th wave.My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Ha, awww. Yeah, I can totally see that, but I feel like I knew a lot of stupid teens. They weren’t friends of mine, but yeahhhh. Maybe it’s an American thing? :-p It was fast-paced, which was the most important thing.

  3. Kayla Beck says:

    Whoa. This is two times now that you’ve rated a book higher than me. :-O
    Kayla Beck recently posted…Blog Tour (Guest Post & Giveaway): Nick & Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage by Steve Hockensmith & Science Bob PflugfelderMy Profile

  4. Angie F. says:

    I am much more eager to get my hands on this one now! I was a bit on the fence, since I loved Before I Fall, but then the Delirium series went seriously downhill, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. This sounds super fun and exciting, and I use to be hooked on Fear Factor, so that’s a plus!
    Angie F. recently posted…Chick Flick Friday: Steel MagnoliasMy Profile

  5. Sydney says:

    I feel the exact same way. I’m finishing up Panic now. It’s really a strange/fast-paced book. I’m nervous about it actually becoming a movie though.

  6. This one really disappointed me, especially as I always classed Oliver as one of my favourite authors, since I adored Before I Fall back in 2010. I still enjoyed it, and the actual game was interesting and thrilling, but some things just didn’t click with me. And the tiger part was kind of silly.
    Amber @ Books of Amber recently posted…Flame by Amy Kathleen RyanMy Profile

  7. I do enjoy those sorts of reality shows (hello I Love Money on VH1). I also have no class hahaha.

    I am glad you liked Panic for the most part and that Oliver surprised you.

    I get what you are saying on the spoiler, and yeah that’s hard to swallow.

    Also, I liked the HEA given all the pain her other books have put me through hahahaha.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Stacking The Shelves (47)My Profile

  8. […] Christina says, “It’s fast-paced, high octane, and a definite page-turner,” and gave it 3.5 stars! […]

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