Panic by Lauren Oliver
Harper Teen, 416 pages
Expected US Release Date: March 4, 2014
Format/Source - ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!
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.
No one had ever told her this basic fact: not everyone got to be loved.
I have a love/hate relationship with Lauren Oliver. I love love LOVE her writing. It’s some of the most lyrical, smooth writing I’ve ever read. I feel like the words glide together and fit just so to make you feel and love. I love Lauren herself; I’ve met her multiple times and chatted and gotten to see her speak and she’s captivating—a trait I find that comes across in her books as well.
But at the same time, I get very frustrated with her books. I find them fairly predictable. I find lots of what happens to be lackluster, in that since I can figure it out, it’s just not as shocking as I feel it’s intended to be. I can’t stand some of her characters, and truthfully, oftentimes I find them a bit one-dimensional and flat. And almost always, I find the main character (or one of them) to be a hopeless loss, that nothing redeeming ever comes around.
That’s how I felt while reading Before I Fall (review here), that’s how I feel when I try to read Delirium (and a large part why I haven’t gotten through it all yet), and, both fortunately and unfortunately, that’s how I felt while reading Panic. I wanted to know more of her characters, I wished all of them kind of went beyond what we thought they would be. There were a few interesting qualities to each, but I still think they could have had more development—there was definite opportunity!
Panic was both predictable and surprising, which is a hard feat to pull off. I could tell you how a lot of it would go; the games and alliances and friendships, the pairings and consequences. But at the same time, there were small things that made my eyebrow arch or made me think “Oh! All right then…”
I’m not saying all of it wasn’t interesting though. Even through my annoyance of being a bit predictable, I enjoyed reading Panic a lot. I love the concept of this small town game with high stakes and big payoff if you survive. I liked how shockingly sinister it was, that it really toyed with lives and brutality at some points. And yes, I whined about the characters, but I liked most of them more than not. I didn’t expect to know so much about both Heather and Natalie, that it was essentially Natalie in there as well. I rather liked Bishop. I couldn’t stand Dodge and thought he was the worst of the characters, but I like what he evoked in others—so as a character he was bleh; as a device he was great.
Something that stood out to me was the setting – small town Carp is hard for me to imagine because it’s so different from my life. I’m from Sunny San Diego, the suburbs just outside a city and everybody is a friend and a stranger all at once. So this little rainy, rinkydink, vaguely ghetto town means nothing to me; but with Lauren’s writing, I feel like I know this place. I can see it in my head, learn the streets and Meth Row and the Animal House in the trees. It made for a great setting for Panic as well – a little dark and dreary, with secrets to learn and run from. The overall mood and feel of the book was something I really enjoyed.
Panic was an up-and-down read for me; I was swept up in the game and what would happen, but really hung up on how reprehensible a lot of the characters were. I found small things to be interesting, but the larger pictures to be predictable and a let-down. And oddly, I feel like all the things I did like were unintentional parts of the story, byproducts of what was really meant to be the focus.
However, I do know that I will still read what Lauren Oliver writes, because her writing is so freakin’ fantastic I will overlook any annoyances I have. And I know for a fact that tons of people will love this story and what it offers.