Panic by Lauren Oliver
Expected Publication: 4 March 2014 by HarperTeen
Pages: 416 (hardcover)
Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Publisher for review
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.
Ah Panic. Your premise was so good - a bunch of teens who try and outlast each other at playing a horrific game of chicken - there are physical challenges, mental challenges and the ultimate test of will and guts.
Told in multiple POVs, Panic centers around three of the teens involved in the annual Panic competition - and the prize of more than $60,000.00 (if I remember correctly), has all the students vying for the top prize. For main character Heather, it's an escape from her deadbeat mother for her and her younger sister and she's determined to do whatever it takes to secure the prize. The other, more minor, POVs are that of her best friend, Nat and Dodge, who has a crush on Nat. There is also Nat and Heather's best friend, Bishop.
What first struck me about the teens is that they ALL have family issues. I suppose it isn't particularly unusual, but it just felt like drama for the sake of drama - Heather has a deadbeat mother, Nat's parents are distant, and Dodge's mother is a struggling single mother who works in the diner they live above. And maybe I'm making more of this than necessary, but it would have been great if one of them had an uncomplicated family - and one that was a little more involved in what was happening.
The second thing was the fact that in such a small town, they all pretty much got away with the whole Panic thing without any attempt at parental or school administration intervention, and the cops only appear briefly to break up one game - although they fear being caught by the police, I found it hard to believe that they could get away with so much.
Back to the characters, and I really struggled to connect with any of them. Heather is the main character, but despite her plans to save her sister from their scary home situation, I didn't really feel much depth to their relationship. It was almost like Heather was going through the motions of what was 'right', rather than being emotionally attached and invested.
And then the ending - it was too fast for me, and pretty unrealistic - there's a huge showdown scene for the final game of Panic and there were parts that just logically didn't make sense - it was definitely a too-good-to-be-true scenario.
Overall, Panic had a lot of potential, but my inability to connect with the characters, and not being convinced by the plot made it hard for me to enjoy.