Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review: Panic by Lauren Olvier

{Actual rating - 4.5 stars}

“No one knows who invented Panic, or when it first began”

This is, like all Lauren Oliver, is a love it or hate it book. And, like all Lauren Oliver (so far) I loved it. 

I understand completely why some people didn’t like this book. Because I think your opinion of this book is shaped greatly by who you are and how you interpret it. To some this book is an entertaining, but ultimately pointless read. But to me this is truly a book about how far you will go to keep yourself and those around you happy. Would you be willing give up your money, your comfort, your safety, your dignity, your virtue, or even your sense of self just to help the people in your life? This is, in my mind, what Panic is truly about. 

And, yes the writing isn’t perfect, and the characters got on my nerves occasionally, and the plot could use some work, but screw it, I loved this book.

The Summary:

“The rules are simple. The day after graduation is Opening Jump, and the game goes all though summer. After the final challenge the winner takes the pot.”

Every year in the poor, small town of Carp, New York the seniors compete in a game called Panic to win $67,000 and with it comes the chance to leave Carp and start a new life somewhere else. Panic involves a series of dangerous and deadly tasks that have one soul goal, to make you panic. And if you panic you’re out. 

“In the seven years of panic there had only been three deaths-four including Tommy O’Hare, who shot himself.”

Heather, one of the main characters, enters Panic on a whim, in an attempt to get over her boyfriend, Matt, cheating on her.

“Matt’s voice kept came whispering back, and she kept climbing.”

Her father shot himself when she was young, and she lives with her irresponsible, alcoholic mother, and her fragile, younger sister.

“Offed himself right after the baby came along. Came home and found his brains splattered on the wall. Can’t say I blame him.”

Her main goal in life is to keep her younger sister, Lily, happy. And she goes through so much to do this. Winning Panic means that she could move out with her sister, and save her from having to continue growing up in such awful conditions. 

Dodge, on the other hand, has been planning to enter Panic ever since it left his sister paralyzed from the waist down.

“He was going to win Panic. He was going to do it for Dayna. He was going to do it for revenge.”

He’s grow on the bad side of town, fatherless, with his mother who brings home a new date every night and never has looked after him or his sister (sound familiar)? A couple years back his bright and vibrant sister, Dayna, played Panic. She made it to the final round, the Joust, but ended up in a wheelchair. Not only did she loose her legs but she lost part of her liveliness. 

Dodge is convinced that the only way he can avenge what happened to his sister is to, during Panic, kill the brother of the boy who left her paralyzed. 

Nat, Heather’s best friend, has been planning to enter Panic for a while, so she can get the money to make it as a model in L.A.

And so the selfless, the selfish, and the revenge-bent join together to win Panic, kick some ass, and risk their lives.

The Challenges:

Let’s start off by saying that, despite being contemporary, these challenges involve doing some serious shit. The challenges not only are physically challenging but, in the individual challenges, require serious mental strength. Think Divergent in contemporary. You have to face your worst fear and if you show that you’re scared you’re out.

The Characters:

There are four main character in this book. However, the POV is in third person from two of the characters POV, Dodge and Heather.

Heather is our main protagonist. She is, in a word, average. She isn’t anything special. In fact, if anything, she’s less than special. She is insecure and believes that she will never be loved and that she will grow up lonely. In addition she has many issues involving her father’s suicide. Even though it is never stated, it seems clear that Heather is depressed. In multiple parts of the book she debated killing herself. She feels incredibly connected to her sister, which gives her a determination that she would not normally have. I actually liked Heather’s character a lot. Although her reasons for joining Panic where stupid and immature, her reasons for continuing Panic where honorable.

“She was playing for keeps now. For Lily.”

Dodge is the other main protagonist. In my opinion he was not a very likable character. I felt bad for him as he grew up in a poor home, with no father and a mother that was never there, forcing him to look after his handicap sister. What made me not like him was the fact that he was so obsessed with Nat. 

“She was wearing this yellow jumper-type thing, with the shirt and shorts attached, and that would have looked stupid on anyone else. But on her it looked amazing.”

He seemed to have ‘had a crush on her’ since he had moved to Carp. But he didn’t really know her. The crush was more of an infatuation and a personality that he had made up for her, based on how pretty she was. And in a later part of the book an event occurred with Nat in which he made a comment that made my annoyance for him turn to hatred.

Nat is a key side character, who shows up quite often. Nat was the most well-off of all the characters. She lived in the rich part of Carp and had two supportive parents. She was a bit of the odd man out, though, since she was the only character who was only in it for herself. However, it made her really interesting to read about, especially since you never actually heard from her point of view.

“But I don’t need Panic. I don’t need Heather. And I don’t need you.”

Through out the book I wanted to know more about her, and I wish there was more of her character in the book. She seemed to have obsessive compulsive tendencies, and was constantly counting and tapping her fingers when she was nervous or scarred. I would have liked to know more about what was really going on with her. 

“She thought of the way that Nat always liked things even, straight down the middle. How sometimes she showered more than once a day. The taps and tongue clicks. Stuff she’d mostly ignored because she was used to it.”

Bishop is the last character I will be discussing. Even though he never played Panic he was still an integral part of the story. He was also fairly well off, and had been friends with Nat and Heather since they were all kids. Everything he did was for someone else, and he did some serious things. I think it’s slightly hard to say much about his character without spoilers, but he was my favorite out of all of them.

The Romance:

I ended up enjoying this romance, despite how it was slightly clique. The storyline of being friends since they where kids and then realized they where in love is one overused in YA, but this was still quite cute. 

“They had their own language, their own jokes. They were constantly touching each other too-pushing and shoving, pinching and hugging, like kids flirting on a playground.”

However, the couple did have some more serious moments. They were painfully honest with each other at time in the book, which shows depth in their relationship.

“You want everything to be shitty. You have a sister who loves you. Friends who love you. I love you, Heather.” He said it fast, in a mumble, and she couldn’t even be happy, because he kept going. “You’ve outlasted almost everyone in Panic. But all you see is the crap. So you don’t have to believe in anything. So you’ll have an excuse to fail.”


This is a great psychological contemporary, however there are flaws in the plot and pacing issues.

-Izzy Elena

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