Lauren Oliver, the author behind the popular Delirium trilogy and additional novellas, is back to the Young Adult fiction world with her latest offering Panic, released March the 6th.
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. Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But everyone has something to play for, and Panic brings unexpected revelations for all of them.
Panic is a game, the stuff of legends in small-town Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere. It began one summer because there was nothing else to do. The graduating class see it as their only way to get out – pooling their money and giving it to the winner.
The opening couple of chapters of Panic really gripped me. The book starts with an action scene and is quickly vividly described, moving fast and taking the reader along for the ride. You then get introduced to the characters, who seem intriguing and make you want to know more about them. Heather and Dodge qualify for Panic, and the story begins.
The main characters have motivations for playing Panic which are discovered throughout the book. Dodge’s primary motivation for playing is revealed fairly early on, and while obviously sad was very one-dimensional in my opinion. I had much more appreciation for Heather’s motivations, which were multi-layered and developed throughout the story.
My main issue with Panic is that there was very little world building. Lots of things were unrealistic and had me rolling my eyes. I’m sure that even small boring towns have a police force that would do more about loads of teenagers literally risking their life for a bit of cash then just complaining a bit and being a bit grumpy. There was literally no consequence of action for anyone. Also, as the book drilled into us, it takes place in a “small town” and yet no-one knows about Panic? Unless all the residents of Carp are ignorant as well as bored… Yeah, ok, you keep working on that plot hole. I mean, no-one wants to read a book where the main characters are in a various cycle of crime – arrest – repeat but let’s try to have a little bit of realism, shall we?
However, every time something made me raise my eyebrows or roll my eyes I did read something that I really enjoyed. I could relate to the bond between Heather and her sister. Although Heather’s version of protecting her was a bit screwed I’m glad that relationship was focused on over the romantic relationship. Granted, it was building for the majority of the novel didn’t actually come into play until the latter end of the book. It made a nice change.
I’m torn. At times I thought it was exciting, and the themes of desperation and friendship were well written and developed. The beginning was fast paced and kept me reading, but it just got weaker. I couldn’t get fully attached to the plot because it was predictable and unrealistic. It’s so unusual to find a standalone not-dystopian young adult novel currently, and I commend Lauren Oliver for that. I honestly feel confused over how I feel about it, and have found it difficult to put into words – 3/5 stars.
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*review copy c/o netgalley
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