Monday 8 September 2014


Book review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

My edition: Paperback, published on 6 March 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 343 pages.

Description: 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.


After a flurry of dystopian novels in the YA genre where teenagers are put in perilous situations in which they have to fight each other, Lauren Oliver (who is probably best known for her own dystopian series, Delirium) has flipped the idea and adapted it for a contemporary setting. She still put the characters in mortal danger, but without the complex political background, which usually elevates these otherwise seemingly pointless battles to much more carefully crafted master plans. However, it does mean that this time around the story is perfectly suited to be told within a single novel and the reader isn't forced to commit to a trilogy or longer series.

In Carp the kids have a lethal tradition: during the summer holidays those who have graduated from the local high school play a game called Panic. The winner will walk away with enough money to leave the deadbeat town and start over. And the losers? They're lucky if they come out of it without broken bones. Despite the game being played for many years now, no one really knows where it originated from and the participants keep each other and the individual tasks a secret so the parents and authorities don't get on to them.

At this year's game Heather joins her best friend Natalie at the very last minute, while the man making up one third of their friendship, Bishop, doesn't enter himself but does keep an eye on the two girls like a protective older brother. Over the summer the three make allies and enemies as the finale draws closer and they discover that there are many secrets hiding in the town and what they thought they knew about each other and the game may not be the (entire) truth.

When I read the blurb for Panic I was instantly intrigued and having already read both Before I Fall and the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver I knew that the interesting concept had a lot of promise in this author's hands. I love her writing style and her storytelling is both compelling and well-thought out, making her books addictive and engrossing.

This was a very quick read and the style and tone felt reminiscent of the Point Horror novels from the early 2000s, though not quite as gory and scary, which is not necessarily a bad thing as I remember many sleepless nights as a teenager where I ended up foolishly reading a Point Horror just before going to bed and nowadays I cherish my beauty sleep too much to miss another night.

I did feel that the novel was a bit predictable and there unfortunately was not enough excitement for the proposed premise; it played it too safe and delved too much into romance territory which took away from the game itself. Furthermore I felt that the background to the game of Panic was lacking, making it less believable that it has been going on for so many years without the authorities stepping in.

Panic was perhaps a bit simplistic and lighthearted for its subject matter, but I did like the premise for the game. And there were some unexpected twists along the way, which ensured that I was gripped until the final page.

You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, or your own preferred retailer.

Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with her online at:


Twitter: @OliverBooks


Many thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy through Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

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