Written by: Lauren Oliver
Published by: HarperCollins
Release date: March 4th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: 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.
Panic is a story about friendship, loyalty, family, betrayal, revenge, and above all, bravery — in the myriad forms it can take. Though it’s most obviously exemplified in the terrifying and dangerous tasks that the participants of Panic are forced to endure (if they want to continue in the game), it’s also prevalent throughout the main characters’ own personal struggles with their meager existence in the little town of Carp. None of them have it easy, and they all have reasons to want to leave.
The title, Panic, obviously refers to the game, but it also refers to so much more in the characters’ lives. They’re going through things that are in many ways just as panic-inducing (though more unavoidable, as they can’t back out of their own lives) as the game of Panic itself.
Panic is unlike any other contemporary I’ve read, and I mean that in the best way possible. When I think “contemporary”, I immediately think “contemporary romance”, which perhaps isn’t fair of me, but there you go. So when I noticed that Panic was being narrated by a girl and a guy, Heather and Dodge, I was pretty darn sure that these two would be getting together by the end of it. Whether or not I was right, though, doesn’t really matter, because this book is definitely not a romance. Yes, there was a bit of a love story (maybe even more than one). But the main point of the dual-perspective narration was to represent two very different participants in the game of Panic, and it was fantastic. (Haha, you thought I was going to tell you if Heather and Dodge were endgame, didn’t you! lol spoilers)
Heather and Dodge couldn’t have joined the game for more different reasons. All participants have to make it through an initial challenge of cliff-diving into a lake. Heather’s participation is spur-of-the-moment; thanks to a heartbreaking revelation right before the official “sign-ups”, Heather decides to jump, and thus, sign up for the games. But as the game progresses, and details about her home-life become more serious, it’s clear that the $50,000+ winnings would change her and her sister’s life. Panic becomes a battle to protect her family more than anything.
Dodge, on the other hand, has been planning to participate for quite some time, and he’s not playing for the $50,000+ winnings. He’s playing for revenge.
Both of these characters’ predicaments are heart-wrenching. But though they are the main characters through which the story is told, the “minor” characters are also seriously well-developed and awesome. There’s Bishop, Heather’s best friend, who isn’t exactly participating in the games, but who makes sure he’s by Heather’s side the entire time. And then there’s Natalie, Heather’s friend, and the person Dodge has a huge crush on. Heather was initially just planning to support Nat while she participated in the games, but since Heather joined, the two become fellow-competitors (but that doesn’t mean their friendship ends, which I appreciated).
I really liked this book, guys. Panic is heartfelt and emotional, gripping and intense, honest and thought-provoking. The characters feel real, and the writing is of the sort that just disappears while you read, all the imagery and events are so vividly portrayed.
The pacing was amazing, as well — I was blown away when I saw the pagecount for this book on Goodreads (I read an eARC). 416 pages?! But it felt so short. The pacing, action, emotion, and great characters made this book fly by.
In short, Panic has set the bar high for 2014 contemporaries. Highly recommended.