Google+ Reading Teen: PANIC by Lauren Oliver {RMB Review}

Friday, June 6, 2014

PANIC by Lauren Oliver {RMB Review}

Review by Kasey Giard

Lauren Oliver
Harper Collins
Goodreads | Amazon
Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand 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. 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.
Summertime in the poor town of Carp means Panic: a game which will push competing teens to their limits and beyond. Last one standing takes home a prize big enough to kiss their small town goodbye and begin a new life. Which is just what Heather wants for her and her little sister Lily, and she finds she’ll do most anything to get it. Dodge has a more sinister prize in mind: revenge. After Panic left his older sister in a wheelchair, he’s counted the days until he could face one of the Hanrahan boys himself, to destroy him as his brother destroyed Dodge’s sister.

Powerhouse writer Lauren Oliver doesn’t mess around. From page one, the story explodes with tension. Her characters are masterfully drawn and artfully flawed. They feel like real teens. The plot begins with a brilliant setup: a group of teens with a pact of silence. Anonymous judges who set insane challenges. And the prize? A jackpot of $67,000.

From there, though, things break down a little bit. Carp is an isolated town of just 12,000 people, many of whom are dirt poor. The prize money for the game comes from the senior class. Each day each student contributes one dollar. You don’t contribute, the wrong people find out and make you pay up. Sinister, yes. But where do a bunch of poor kids get $180? Honestly, in the bigger picture it’s a smaller detail and not difficult to overlook in order to enjoy the story.

Beyond the tension set up in the suspense inherent in the mechanics of the game, the true power of the story really lies in its characters. Oliver delivers intense emotion through her amazing word-craft. The lines ooze with fear, tension or romance amid striking metaphors. Great stuff.

Despite the strength of the characters and plot tension, the story’s conclusion deflates its momentum. Two important conflicts are left hanging. Readers jump from a scene in which a boy is kidnapped and a girl nearly accidently killed and in the next scene, all players are friends again. It felt too easy. Too simple. Too perfect.

Also – characters do not really spend a lot of time evaluating the morality of the game of Panic. It’s an accepted part of life. It may kill or paralyze, but it will begin again the next June. No one really tried to stop it, even Heather and her friend Bishop, who feel strongly at different points in the story that the game is wrong. Maybe this would have made the story more predictable, or perhaps it’s strengthened by simply opening the topic for discussion and allowing readers to draw their own conclusions as to the morality of the game and its players. Hard to say.

Oliver’s fans will find this story more like her debut Before I Fall than the Delirium trilogy. Over all, readers who enjoy angsty contemporary stories featuring suspense with a generous seasoning of clean romance should give this one a try.

Kasey Giard

A note on content:
  • The story contains a few scenes showing teens drinking alcohol and getting drunk, and in one scene a girl sees her mother and other adults after they’ve been using cocaine. There are a few references to sex, but no scenes depicting anything more than kissing. Strong profanity appears regularly.


  1. Ahh! Great review. I adore Lauren Oliver, but I feel like my love of her raises my expectations for her books, so it's good to see something honest. Sad to hear about the ending just not working. I hate convenience, and it's surprising because Oliver usually keeps it well away from her stories.
    I'm still going to read it, but I'm trying to keep a level head. Thanks for the review, Kasey!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks! I think I do the same thing (regarding raised expectations.) I definitely think this book was worth reading. Hope to see your review in the future! :)


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