Panic Review

Book: Panic

Author: Lauren Oliver

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted a review, but I hope you’ve all been enjoying my daily posts, and that those will tide you guys over between reviews from now on. It took me a while to finish this book, because of the usual not having enough time to read, but also because I never really got into it. It’s one of those books that I don’t hate but I don’t love, I just felt kind of meh about it. From the blurb, I thought it was going to be really exciting, it seemed kind of Hunger Games-esque, but the book just didn’t live up to it’s blurb. It’s also kind of misleading because you assume that it’s a dystopian and it’s actually a contemporary. Here is the blurb so you guys can read it:

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.

So you can imagine why I was excited, sounds like a great book right? Wrong. Aside from the chapters where they were actually playing Panic, I found the whole thing quite dull to read, not much really happens between each round of Panic. Also I know Heather (the female protagonist) goes through a lot, but I found her so whiny and irritating and she was always so obsessed with Bishop (oh I love Bishop, why doesn’t he like me?), and her ex-boyfriend too so I could never really connect to her. She does develop over the course of the book and I liked her more towards then end,  but I still didn’t care enough about what happened to her. I really enjoyed the game portions of the book, I felt like the game kind of took a backseat to the characters and I would have liked to have seen them do more challenges, becuase the challenges were actually really good. I kind of felt like I just wanted to finish the book really quickly because I didn’t want to be reading it anymore, I wasn’t engaged enough with the story and when that happens, you know you have a problem!

Although I disliked Heather, I did love how she was with her little sister Lily, I loved all their sisterly moments, they were great. I really didn’t get the concept of the game though, it sounded like something that teenagers in the town just made up because they were bored, but if you’re bored you get a job, or hobby, you don’t play a crazy ass, possibly life threatening game. It amazed me that the police in Carp hadn’t put a stop to Panic already because it had clearly gone on for quite some time already, was clearly illegal and it seemed like they should have done something already. Also Dodge and his obsession with Natalie was annoying too, he was always going on about how cute she was, and she never seemed to like him much back yet they end up together in the end? How the hell does that work?. I never really managed to connect with any of the characters.

I liked the dual perspective of the book, I thought that part worked well and the two characters had very clearly different voices. I wasn’t too keen on Dodge either, he always seemed to get upset over petty things, like Natalie not liking him, or his sister having a new friend, or his mum having a new boyfriend. Aside from the challenges the book didn’t really have much plot, it was just the challenges interspersed with various things that happen in Dodge and Heather’s lives over the course of Panic, most of which were pretty dull. There are so many holes in the way Panic worked, I mentioned the police one already, but also the fact that the parents let their children play the game, and that everyone seems kind of oblivious to it happening, in a small town, surely everyone would know about a game like this? Still even if they do, they never do anything to stop it. They trust the judges to look after the money, when the judges could easily run off with it. They also seem willing to do practically anything, put their lives on the line for this money, and I get that for a high school graduate 67k is a lot of money, but surely it’s not worth risking your life? Alongside the challenges for everyone, there were individual challenges in the second to last round of the game, and it seemed unfair that some challenges were a lot easier than others (for example one challenge was spiders, another was Russian Roulette), there is no logic in that, in one of them the person could actually die whereas the other one, whilst scary, is not life threatening. Also Dodge does a load of crazy things in his mission for revenge (his sister was left paralysed after a player tampered with her car in the final challenge of Panic), and he tampers with the car that Heather drives in Joust (the final challenge), thinking that the brother of the guy who hurt his sister is going to be driving it, she almost gets killed, and they somehow remain friends? Not realistic in the slightest! Nat had problems with Heather entering Panic, but this is brushed over quite quickly. Bishop does some seriously bad stuff, and this is all forgiven quickly, & Nat goes behind Heather and Dodge’s backs and makes deals with both of them, and this is brushed over quickly.

Nat irritated me, she was always so scared of everything and she came across as a whiny, selfish bitch, other than her being pretty, I’m not sure what Dodge saw in her. She clearly had some issues though, and I wish that had been explored more. Dodge and Heather, whilst being the two narrators of the book, never really seem to have any kind of relationship, which seemed really odd to me. I mean Oliver tries to create a sort of friendship between Heather and Dodge, but it always feels awkward and not very realistic. I did like that she didn’t take the obvious route of a Heather/Dodge romance though. I also guessed the twist way before it was revealed, and I wish she’d chosen something a little less obvious and cliche. I also would have loved to see more from some of the other players of Panic, explored their motives for playing more. The characters all fell kind of flat, although I liked that Dodge’s motives for revenge were explored, even if I did find him a little crazy sometimes. I also loved his relationship with his sister, although I didn’t like that she was portrayed as so broken just because she was in a wheelchair, and that she only got better once she started regaining feeling in her legs, it felt a little discriminatory towards disabled people, who are able to live perfectly fulfilling lives. The book is kind of predictable, you know that either Heather or Dodge is going to win, and it’s really just a case of which one.

I hated the ending, everyone was happy and back to normal, and you didn’t find out what happened to any of the characters, like Anne (did she ever get in trouble for the tigers? What happened to the second tiger?), did Lily and Heather had to go back to their mum? What happened to Dayna? Did Dodge’s mom and Bill Kelly ever get married? It just seemed like a stereotypical happy ending. It also felt like a bit of a cop out that the car didn’t explode with Heather in it. Anne was perhaps the only character I liked in the book, she was so wise and I loved how much she cared about her animals, and how she acted like a mother figure to Heather. The pacing was all wrong too, it went from on your seat action to slow faster than you can click your fingers, I don’t mind books with a slow buildup that get faster later on, but I didn’t like the constant switching between the fast pace of the Panic challenges, back to everyday life.

Overall it was an okay book, but like I said, it left me feeling kind of meh, I didn’t love it, I didn’t it. It’s probably better for someone who’s already a fan of Lauren Oliver, for me, who had never read one of her books before, it wasn’t the best introduction, although I had no major quibbles with her actual writing style. I think my problem was, I had just too high expectations for this book, and if I hadn’t expected it to be so good, it would be less disappointing.

My Rating: 2.5/5 (it wasn’t quite good enough to make it to 3)

The next book I will be reviewing is Slated by Teri Terry, and I will also be posting my Thursday Quotables later on, so look out for that.