My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Panic by Lauren Oliver was such a good book I read it practically from beginning to end without putting it down. And by this, I mean it was a fantastic read, even though I struggled with the subject matter.
This standalone novel is told from two points of view – that of Heather and Dodge, both recently graduated seniors who are competing in Panic. The game is open to any graduating seniors, who compete in challenges throughout the summer for the “pot,” a large sum of money that’s been collected throughout their four years of high school. The game is difficult, and often very, very dangerous.
Heather and Dodge are competing for very different reasons, but both are trying to escape their circumstances. Heather’s mother is an alcoholic, and so Heather herself is largely responsible for her little sister Lily. Dodge’s sister is handicapped, and he wants revenge. I sympathized with these realistic characters and even understood their original reasons for entering the game.
The game, however, disgusted me. Yes, I can understand why a large sum of money (in this case, $67,000) would entice teenagers to perform dangerous stunts. That doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid. The players know what they’re getting into, as they’ve been the audience for the previous games. Players have died, or been seriously injured, in the past. And yet Panic continues to be a tradition, and revered by all the students in Carp.
I thought Panic might be the way Heather and Dodge came to terms with their demons, but even after they conquered their inner conflicts, they competed until the end. In my opinion, it was frustrating when neither of them renounced the game. This was definitely my greatest problem with the novel. Otherwise, I quite enjoyed it. I liked the alternating perspectives. It was refreshing that Heather and Dodge were not each other’s love interest.
I know this book was supposed to be a study of fear and our reactions to it, but I didn’t really get that from it. Though I can respect a well-written novel and intriguing plot, I can’t really support the disregard for consequences shown in the book. This aspect of Oliver’s novel, I believe, undermined the characters’ strength rather than enhanced it.
Have you read this book? Share your thoughts!