Saturday, 22 February 2014

Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Release date: March 4th 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Format: eARC
Pages: 267
Source: Edelweiss

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.

I adored Lauren Oliver's Delirium series, and I was really excited to get into this one. That being said, Panic is an enjoyable read, with solid characters and an exciting premise. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations, so in the future I should probably refrain from setting them too high. Nevertheless, I liked this well enough and though the pace is quite slow in the beginning, there were never any truly dull moments.

Panic follows two teenagers, Heather and Dodge, as they participate in the notorious Panic, a game played only by graduated high school seniors, with a humongous prize for the winner. Both have very different reasons for participating, neither of them being the prize money. Heather's initial motivation is the boyfriend who she catches cheating on her, and Dodge's is a bit darker - revenge. As they take part and overcome obstacles and fear, they realize Panic is way more dangerous than it seems on the surface, and sabotage is common.

I expected this book to be really fast-paced, but I found that nothing really happens in the first quarter, and it only gets intriguing later on. The premise was also a little unrealistic. Just a note on that - Please don't compare this to The Hunger Games. The two books are completely different genres and I've read more than one book with the concept of a high-stakes game with glory and wealth for the winner. Regarding the premise, I thought it was weird that no one had ever shut down Panic, especially since people have died playing it. There's also a certain part involving tigers that was pretty far-fetched.

The third person narrative hindered my connection to the characters, as it usually does. Heather bugged me at first since it made no sense to enter such a dangerous game just to get back at her boyfriend. It's her own life she's playing with! Heather is reckless and impulsive, but I kind of liked her later in the book. I enjoyed reading her scenes with Bishop, her best friend, though the obvious attraction-denial issue got on my nerves. I also admired Heather's ability to stand up for herself and her little sister, Lily. Their parents are complete assholes, and Heather's situation made me empathize with her a little more.

Dodge was slightly weird but I definitely liked him more than I did Heather. Dodge has a real reason to join Panic, and that makes him all the more determined to win. He interested me right from the start. Dodge is smart and capable, and clearly doesn't lack confidence. He's always been on the sidelines in school, but now everyone's noticed him. The only thing I didn't like about Dodge is that he's totally in love with Heather's other best friend, Natalie. I really don't get what he sees in her. Nat's afraid of pretty much everything, she's whiny, and just overall annoying. It surprised me that she still takes part in Panic with Heather and Dodge.

Bishop is the one character I liked throughout. He can be both supportive and stern, serious and funny. I loved his character, and Heather's lucky to have a best friend like him during the game. Bishop has his own secrets, and I feel disappointed that I saw the revelation coming a mile away. The suspense was lost, and that's another reason I couldn't enjoy this book as much as I wanted to.

Oliver has a message in this book, about bravery and overcoming fear. That part was embedded really well throughout, especially towards the end. It reminds me a little of Before We Fall, Oliver's other YA contemporary. Though I've got to say this one is way better. Panic ends perfectly, and everyone gets the ending they deserve. In fact, the ending's probably my favourite part of the book, since the action and danger was a little unsatisfying. Overall, Panic has a great message and a premise with a lot of potential, though the way it's carried out is a bit lacking.

*Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an eARC for review*

Rating: 3/5

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