Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic by Lauren Oliver.

Published: March 4, 2014.
Published by: HarperCollins.
Source: Requested an ARC from the publisher for review consideration. Thank you, HarperCollins Canada!
More from the publisher here.

Goodreads Synopsis:
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.

My Review:

Panic is an interesting contemporary - yes, contemporary, not dystopian - novel that didn't wow me but certainly had my attention when it came to one of the biggest aspects of the novel. Unfortunately, not all of the elements lived up to that big one. 

The strongest point of the novel is the actual playing of the game of Panic. Panic is played by the graduating seniors who do increasingly difficult and dangerous dares in order to be the one to win a pot of money - over $50,000 - that they had all contributed to over the year. Panic is a game that I could actually believe might exist in a small town. Its clouded origins and the stories of past winners were a thing of legend and I definitely got swept up in the idea of the game. The tensions and fear that the players experience around the events are built up very well and really got me into their emotions. The dares were believable even in their stupid levels of danger and were given great weight in the story and in consideration of their implications. The game of Panic was a thrill to read about and I truly enjoyed it. I just wish the rest of the novel had lived up to it. 

To be honest, the characters really didn't do much for me in this novel. While the four primary characters - Heather, Dodge, Nat, and Bishop - were characterized decently well, none of them really stuck with me after having finished the book. They were interesting enough in the moment but I never felt attached to any of them, not did I truly come to care about their situations. I appreciated what Heather's younger sister, Lily, brought to the story and to Heather as a character. I liked that she brought out another side to Heather and helped give her more motivation. However, Lily's own characterization didn't always work for me. Much of the time she seemed younger than the 12 years she was supposed to be. It came through in the way she acted and spoke and it just didn't really work for me. 

Finally, the romance aspect was pretty underwhelming. I don't know if it was because I didn't connect with the characters much in the first place or what, but there was just no memorable romance in this book at all. I feel like if Oliver had felt the need to include one, it could have been much more strongly developed and made more memorable (and preferably with stronger characters, as well). If you're going to include a romance, I really need to care about it in one way or another. My apathy towards the attempted love story is disappointing but ultimately stems from the fact that the characters didn't mean much to me and that nothing from the romance actually stuck. It was ultimately unsurprising and unmemorable. 

The game aspect of Panic was an intriguing and exciting concept that really caught my attention. Unfortunately, the characters and the execution of much of the rest of the book was a bit of a let down and didn't live up to the potential created by the fantastic idea that was the risky game of Panic.


  1. I'm so so so glad that I am not the only one who didn't love this book! I was starting to feel like a big outcast.

    I felt the exact same way you did. The chapters that focused on the actual game were well done and held my attention. But I couldn't connect with the characters and I was actually kind of bored when reading when there wasn't any action.

    Kay @ It's a Book Life

    1. Phew! I'm really glad too to hear that it wasn't just me! I just found it so hard to connect with the characters and yes, I was bored without the actual game of Panic going on as well. It was too bad because the actual game was so great!


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