Author: Lauren Oliver
Number of pages: 408
Star rating: 3.5/5
Panic starts with an opening challenge to decide who is allowed to play- jumping off a cliff into the ocean below. Heather’s decision to play comes right at the end, when her boyfriend breaks up with her. She jumps for two reasons: she needs the money (67,000 dollars) and to prove that she isn’t the weakling he accused her of being. From there, Heather and Dodge become allies against the 50 other players that have entered. The book develops slowly through each challenge, and Heather and Dodge have to decide if they’re willing to risk their lives to win.
This book COULD have been a series of cliches. It COULD have developed into a romance between the two narrators, or into a thriller without a cliffhanger. But somehow it rose above that. The characters were so realistic. Heather and Dodge came from their own distinctive backgrounds, but neither of their motives for playing Panic felt contrived. Neither main character was perfect, and both entered Panic as a result of their flaws (Heather’s stubbornness and Dodge’s inability to forgive), but they became all the more relatable because of this.
Panic was advertised as a thriller. I would disagree, and say it’s a psychological coming-of-age story instead. Playing “the game” is a literal rite of passage in Carp. To portray this even further, the author turned Carp into a stifling character. The setting became the barrier that every character in this book tried to overcome, and this brilliant depiction added an intriguing layer of depth to the plot.
However, I noticed a few massive plot holes in Oliver’s writing. She leaves much of Dodge’s past to the interpretation of the reader, and writes an inconclusive finale. In the story, Dodge’s family life is an important motivation for him, but the author never reveals why Dodge is so protective of them. Also, the ending of the story as a whole was abrupt and left too much unanswered. Readers never discover the ultimate outcome of the game (i.e. who wins) or how the eventual downfall of Panic progresses. Questions were left completely open, and they ruined the ending of the story for the reader.
As a thriller, this wasn’t anything TOO special, but the originality of the plot and characters was astounding and made for an incredible read.