Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand 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 to most.
Review: Four out of Five Stars
I am a big fan of Lauren Oliver. I read and loved Before I Fall and the Delirium series (except for the end of Requiem,
I think the description of this book is very misleading. It would have you believe that it is an action packed thriller about a high stakes game. It's really more of a story about the characters and why they choose to play the game and its consequences. There are a couple of scenes that are suspenseful, but overall Panic did not make me panic.
World and Plot: Panic takes place in a small town of about 12,000 people (12,000? Lol get on my level, Lauren.) in New York. Every day throughout the school year they make every kid donate one dollar to the pot for Panic (Every. Single. Day. For four years! And I thought my small town high school sucked). Then during the summer all graduating seniors have the opportunity to play for the money. Other than that it's your basic small town where everyone knows everyone and there's lots of drama.
The story follows one summer of Panic from the dual perspective of Heather Nill and Dodge Mason who are both participants. Throughout the game their courage, friendships, families, and lives are put on the line. The pot is 67,000 this year, enough money to change your life forever.
Reoccurring Themes: Friendship, Family, Revenge, Bravery, Risk, Trust, Hope
Reaction: I liked Panic. I liked it a lot. Is it one of my favorites? Nah. Maybe it's because I was expecting more excitement. Maybe it's because it's because Lauren Oliver was the author. This book just wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be.
The book starts off interesting with Heather joining Panic after being dumped by her jerk of a boyfriend. Her best friend Natalie is startled and angry when Heather decides to enter. Nat is also playing Panic.
We are then introduced to our other narrator Dodge. Dodge doesn't really have friends. He and Heather are sort of friends but not really. Dodge isn't playing Panic for the money or for himself, he's playing for REVENGE!
The first challenge is pretty simple. One must jump off a high cliff into the water below and announce themselves as a player. This is a celebrated event and all of the young people in Carp come to watch.
The next challenge is where things start to get dangerous. The players have to walk across a plank between two water towers and are timed. This was a stressful section, but Heather pulled through and made it. The cops showed up and scattered everyone before the challenge could be completed.
While running away Natalie sprains her ankle and Heather and Dodge help her limp away. Thus Nat is eternally grateful to Dodge and so begins their courtship.
While waiting for the cops to leave Nat and Heather have a best friend moment and decide if they win they'll split the money. Warning bells went off in my head at this point. Nat is not a trustworthy girl.
The reveal of why Dodge wants revenge comes next when we see his sister Dayna. Dayna played Panic two years ago and lost the ability to use her legs in the final round. The cause of this injury was Luke Hanrahan, whose brother Ray is playing this year. Dodge figures a sibling for a sibling will make them even. At which point I realized Dodge is a tiny bit crazy.
Nat shows up and offers Dodge a deal where they split the money if they win (I was so right about her). Then she flirts with him and leads him on.
After the water tower challenge Heather loses her job at Walmart after sleeping in and missing a shift. We are exposed to her life of living in Fresh Pines trailer park with her younger sister, her mother, and her stepfather. The parents (if we have to call them that) are frequent drug and alcohol users who don't take care of Heather or Lily, who's only twelve.
Heather luckily scores a job with a woman named Anne. Anne owns a barn out in the country and hires Heather to help out. Her other best friend Bishop gives her a ride there and we instantly get the feeling this is more than just friendship.
Anne is a sweet lady. There's just one little odd thing that separates her into cuckoo territory. She has...tigers. Real live actual tigers. In a fence (AS IF THAT COULD STOP THEM) in her backyard. This is the one detail of the book that I do not accept. It is utterly ridiculous. Like nobody would notice you were keeping tigers in a town that small. The grapevine is real people. It is real, it is short, and it is fast. The second you brought those tigers into town everyone and their grandma would know about it.
Alas, sometimes we must accept tigers in our books and move on with the story.
The next challenge is to sneak into Trigger-Happy Jack the drunk's house and steal something. The man shoots at intruders and sends his watch dogs after them. Piece of cake. Dodge, Heather, and Nat work as a team through this challenge. Nat is kind of useless (what else is new?) because of her ankle and Heather and Dodge do most of the work to get what they need.
After this challenge the cops start threatening to shut Panic down but nobody thinks they can. If anyone tattles you can be assured people will find out it was you and they will make you regret it.
Our group of four spend some time together. We learn Nat wants to use the money to move to LA to be a model and is willing to go through sleezy guys to get there. Dodge and Nat also become an official sort of something.
The next challenge is to stay overnight in the haunted Graybill house. Our team of Heather, Nat, and Dodge stake out a room of their own in a dingy closet. This is fine until somebody sets the house on fire and they're trapped inside. Nat is able to get out through the window but Heather and Dodge won't fit. They almost die from the smoke but are rescued just in time.
Heather wakes up in the hospital to Bishop and Nat at her bedside. They inform her that the homeless guy in their town had been hiding out in the house that night and died in the fire. The police are now trying to shut down Panic and question everyone. The secret judges are ready to call it off.
Dodge isn't having this because then he won't get his revenge. He gets his enemy Ray to help him keep the game going by putting one of the players through a solo challenge by kidnapping him.
Heather decides to quit the game because it's too dangerous and feels guilty about the murder. But then she comes home to her sister sitting outside in the rain. Her mother made her stay outside while her and her friends did cocaine. Heather grabs all her stuff and takes her sister with her and decides to live in her mom's car. She now needs the money from Panic more than ever. Poor girl. Makes your heart ache a little.
The next challenge actually was terrifying. The few players remaining had to cross the highway blindfolded, judging whether to go based on if they could hear cars. It was an action packed sequence I enjoyed. Our two leads make it through, but Nat is cut.
Next is Nat's birthday party. Nat is drunk and angry at everyone. Dodge tries to give her a present and she tells him she's using him and seeing someone else. They get in a big fight and Dodge leaves. Also at the party Heather kisses Bishop in a spur of the moment thing but he pushes her away. He says he needs to explain but Heather isn't having it and runs off. She finds Nat obsessively washing her hands in the bathroom, revealing her OCD. This made me a bit more sympathetic to her character...but I still don't like her.
One of the players still in the game attacks the announcer and tries to get him to reveal the names of the elusive (not really, it's pretty dang obvious who they are) judges. This gets him disqualified and Nat back in. (Convenient, ay?)
Heather has to return to Bishop's house where she left her phone and catches him hanging out with another girl. In a jealous rage she grabs her phone and storms out. The angst is real.
Dodge suddenly gets a text telling him to meet his family at the hospital. He rushes over only to find that Dayna was able to move her toes. Dodge gets angry and says he thought something actually happened, hurting Dayna and his mom. They go out to celebrate, but Dodge isn't in the mood. He's mad Dayna doesn't want him to play Panic anymore and also storms off. Two angsty narrators, so little time.
This is when my dislike for Dodge became cemented. Your sister that you call your best friend hasn't been able to move her legs at all for two years. She finally has a breakthrough and is ecstatic about it. And you respond that it basically isn't a big deal. What a jackass. All he cares about is revenge and he's a jerk. Screw you, Dodge.
Heather and Lily finally get caught with the car they stole from her mom and decide to stay with Anne. She welcomes them with open arms. Their mother tries to get them to come home but they refuse.
Dodge figures out who the judges are (not a brilliant deduction man. All the signs were there.). He then threatens to reveal their identity if they don't let him skip the solo challenge.
Heather then has to do her solo challenge. When she was younger, her real father shot himself. It gave her a fear of guns. So for her challenge she has to play Russian Roulette with a loaded gun once and hope she doesn't get the one with the bullet. Dodge removes the bullet though while no one is looking at request of the judge. Heather goes through with it without knowing this and makes it to the finals.
Nat then gets her solo challenge. She has to stand in the tiger pit at Anne's for ten seconds. She can't make it though (who could? REAL LIVE TIGERS. Still ridiculous.) and is disqualified. Again.
After the challenge Heather forgets to lock the tigers' gate though and they escape. (YOU HAD ONE JOB, HEATHER. ONE JOB.) She frantically searches for them, but they're gone. The judges identity is then revealed to her because they want to take the blame for it. Unfortunately the person who finds the first tiger does the sensible thing and shoots it because TIGERS ARE DANGEROUS WILD ANIMALS NOT PETS.
Anne is pretty ticked off when she discovers this, but understands it was an accident. She lets Heather and Lily keep staying with her.
Next it is time for the grand finale: JOUST. Two cars playing chicken. Three players left: Dodge, Heather, and Dodge's target Ray. Totally made me think of this the whole time...
There are two rounds. First is Heather vs Ray. Then the winner goes up against Dodge. I won't spoil who wins, but this is the hands down best and most panicky part of the book. The climax is pretty awesome except the slightly odd thing at the end.
The epilogue was a little bleak and fluffy for my tastes. It wrapped things up, but it wasn't what I was looking for. At least there was an ending (*cough* Requiem *cough*)
Overall this was just
I liked it! I did! It just wasn't the bam wow pop I was expecting. Maybe it's because I didn't actually particularly like any of the characters. Heather was oblivious too much and a bit of a downer. Dodge was a crazy jerk who only cared about revenge or Nat. I've already expressed my dislike for Nat. Bishop didn't know how to spit things out. I didn't really connect with anyone. I wanted Heather to win Panic to turn her life around, but she was really hard to put up with sometimes.
Would I recommend this? Yeah, it's a nice quick standalone novel. If you're looking for something with a little more meat I'd avoid this one. It has it's high points. Lauren Oliver really knows how to turn a phrase. The writing is awesome, the characters and plot...less awesome. Also as I've mentioned the "mystery" parts of it were terribly obvious and over foreshadowed in my opinion.
Not every book can be a winner.
And remember: tigers are not pets.
“No one should be allowed to be happy when you were so miserable – especially not your best friends. It should be a law.”
“This was what true fear was--that you could never know other people, not completely. That you were always just guessing blind.”
“But maybe you carried your demons with you everywhere, the way you carried your shadow.”
Side Note: Yes, it has been a couple weeks since I posted. This is because...I started watching Sherlock. Yes, the British TV version that everyone else is obsessed with. IT IS WORTHY OF OBSESSION. It's on Netflix bro. I suggest you binge watch it ASAP.
But I'm back from hiatus now and ready to start reading up a storm y'all!