Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: Panic

Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: March 4, 2014
Hardcover, 408 pages
4.5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

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.

When I heard Oliver had a book coming out, I knew I needed it right away. When I heard it was a contemporary book, I immediately thought about Before I Fall, her debut that blew me away. And while this book has the same prose as her others, it is so completely different that I can't even compare it to the others. Panic is so different from anything I've read, by Oliver or otherwise. When I saw that it was written in third person, I was worried. I'm so in love with hearing characters come to life in their own words, but I bit my tongue and took my words back after the first chapter. Panic came to be one summer when the graduating students got bored. There's no much else to do in Carp anyway, so they may as well make it interesting. Panic is a game that lasts all summer, only graduates may play. You don't have to, but the prize waiting for you at the end makes me hard not too. But Panic is not easy. Panic makes you face your worse fears or worse. People have been injured, people have died. But Heather needs to the money so she can get out of Carp and Dodge needs the money so he can help his sister. 

This book was so hard to put down. Even the parts between the challenges, the parts where not much was happening, kept me anticipating what would come next. Just like the contestants of Panic, I didn't know what was in store for me next. Each word Oliver used made me second guess anything I thought might happen. With each day,  a new Panic challenge would arrive anonymously, sending fear through the contestants. Heather was relatable, coming from a not so good home life and realizing that the money could help her get her sister out of the small town. She is certainly not your typical YA heroine in her looks. She's bigger and taller, while it's her friend, Nat, is the cute pretty one. And Dodge is so far from the normal YA hero, it's a breath of fresh air. He's dirty and conniving, but it's all for a reason. Both are trying to do what's best for their families, even if they risk their own lives doing it, and both are also wading through the waters of love, hoping against all hope that they will still have a chance when Panic is over.

Oliver's characters were not perfect at all. Their flaws only made their motives more thrilling and made me rooting for both Heather and Dodge to win Panic. The secrets they kept from each other, their reasons for playing, gave me a thrill that I don't get very often in other books. Even in the last few chapters, there was no telling who would take the prize home and who would actually survive to tell about it. Everything about the book was unique and I was engaged all the way to the end. The Delirium series fell short for me, but Before I Fall still reminds one of my favourites. This book was reminiscent of her first novel and I was glad to see that side of her back again. Can't wait for more, Lauren!

“It was so strange, the way that life moved forward: the twists and the dead ends, the sudden opportunities. She supposed if you could predict or foresee everything that was going to happen, you’d lose the motivation to go through it all. The promise was always in the possibility.” 

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