April 11, 2014

Panic - Lauren Oliver

Young Adult
Pages: 416
Pblisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Goodreads / Amazon

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end 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 the most.
Already optioned by Universal Pictures in a major deal, this gritty, spellbinding novel captures both the raw energy of fear mixed with excitement as well as the aching need to find a place to belong.

By now we know Lauren Oliver is an expert at coming up with original themes and making them work flawlessly. This time, as she returns to realistic fiction, she explores the small town life in a darker type coming of age story. Don't expect what you have read from Oliver before because this is very different. Themes like revenge, friendship and betrayal play an important part in the story. Oh, and there are tigers. Yep, you heard right, tigers!

Panic is a game played in Carp, where each contestant must face and overcome their fears in a series of challenges. Challenges that can be deadly. People have died "playing" Panic. The story is told from the alternating POVs of Heather and Dodge, two of the players with very different goals in mind, as they delve into a darkish journey of self-discovery and as they learn who is who, and who to trust.

As much as the theme of the game worked out and the suspense kept me engaged, I did find some parts to be a bit sappy and overdone. Each character in turn seem to behave out of character at some point for me, except for Bishop who might, yes, be too perfect, but I happen to like him just the way he is. Wink. I also thought maybe "panic" was too strong of a word for what the game really is. The ending was also very abrupt. Fitting, but abrupt.

Yet overall, I think this is a book that realistic fiction readers will love and will find the suspense to be fresh and light, while the story and romance don't interfere with the thrill. I highly recommend the audio version as well. It is very enjoyable--excellent reader.

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