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.
This is my first Lauren Oliver book out of the Delirium series. I loved Delirium and loved Pandemonium even more (JULIAN BABY) but I haven’t read Requiem for fear of things that might happen. (I know, what a coward.) In a way, I still had a bit of wariness in reading Panic as this might dictate if I truly love Lauren’s writing and works. Then there are all those disappointed reviews which just added to my nerves. I was at a standstill so I decided to just read it and get it over it. WHEW is all I can say because Panic did NOT disappoint me!
Admittedly, I only got invested to the story around 25% of the novel. At first, I was disoriented with the narrative as it was told in the third person POV and I am not that of a fan of that specific perspective. This resulted in me having quite a hard time connecting to the characters. Panic is told in Heather and Dodge’s perspectives (in the third person POV) so we get to know more about them – their family, their reason for joining Panic and all of their thoughts and feelings. The first quarter of the novel established the game players and the unsaid and unwritten rules of the game Panic. I was ready to have a so-so read but then I got past the first quarter of the novel and everything went BOOM BOOM BOOM.
Panic turned its tides and became much much more interesting when the challenges became dangerous and when the stakes got high. Pun intended, Panic got me panicking. Just ask Charlie of Letter Trails how many profanities I texted her because the events got heartleap-inducing. Then the characters got more dimensional as the novel progressed, as we saw what drives them and as we learn their secrets. It was definitely juicy to unravel those and it made the book more exciting.
As I said, it took me some time to get invested with the characters. I like Dodge’s perspective more because 1) he’s a guy and 2) his reason for joining Panic was both layered and deep. Heather’s reason was shallow in the beginning but when she gained a cause to strive to win Panic, she definitely earned some points in my book because she suddenly have so many feelings and musings. Completing the immediate circle of characters are Bishop and Natalie, Heather’s best friend. Natalie was a layered character but was not exploited as much in my opinion. But Bishop, oh Bishop. He was the reason why I got tons excited while reading Panic. He’s the reason – him and his plot arc- was why I got hooked with this novel. So really, Panic owes it to Bishop in my opinion.
Lastly, Lauren Oliver’s writing. While Panic was not as lush and vividly written like the Delirium series (which was understandable since Delirium was a dystopian novel and Panic is a contemporary one and it doesn’t require as much world-building), Oliver’s great writing still shone through. And the theme of Panic was properly delivered and executed, which is characteristic of Lauren’s books. Panic tackled fear, bravery, courage, revenge and like her other books, it’s a repository of beautiful and heart-tugging passages. To quote one (This is from an advanced reading copy and is not final):
No one had ever told her this basic fact: not everyone got to be loved. It was like those stupid bell curves they’d had to study in math class. There was the big, swollen, happy middle, a whale hump full of blissful couples and families eating around a big dining room table and laughing. And then, at the tapered ends, there were the abnormal people, the weirdos and freaks and zeros like her.
Overall, Panic was an exciting read after you get through the plodding first quarter of the novel. Still, it has this quality that you cannot stop reading it until you reach the end of the game and know who wins. I enjoyed reading it and eventually got around to being invested in the characters and the plot but I still wish more for the execution and pace of the narrative. It is the type of novel wherein nothing seems to happen even with the challenges ongoing but these non-events lead to our characters changing and growing. It lets us see into them and therefore, it lets the theme and message resonate with us without us even knowing it. Panic might not be for everyone, especially if you’re easily bored. But if you were able to appreciate Delirium even with its sluggish pace, I think you will at least like this one.
NOTE: Panic is NOT a dystopian novel, guys. It is a contemporary YA novel. There is nothing paranormal or supernatural or even remotely science-y in this. It is purely a contemporary novel with a premise revolving around a game involving challenges.
About Lauren Oliver
Lauren Oliver comes from a family of writers and so has always (mistakenly) believed that spending hours in front of the computer every day, mulling over the difference between “chortling” and “chuckling,” is normal. She has always been an avid reader.
She attended the University of Chicago, where she continued to be as impractical as possible by majoring in philosophy and literature. After college, she attended the MFA program at NYU and worked briefly as the world’s worst editorial assistant, and only marginally better assistant editor, at a major publishing house in New York. Her major career contributions during this time were flouting the corporate dress code at every possible turn and repeatedly breaking the printer. Before I Fall is her first published novel.
She is deeply grateful for the chance to continue writing, as she has never been particularly good at anything else.