Book Review: Panic

Published by: HarperCollins
Release date: March 4, 2014
Genre: YA contemporary
416 pages
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher

Here at Reading Lark, we are huge fans of Lauren Oliver and her work. She is doing some important work in the genre, both as an author and behind the scenes, and we are always excited for an opportunity to promote her work. I was lucky enough to get my paws on this one before anyone else in the Nest did.

Panic is a game played by the most recent graduates of the local high school in a small town which otherwise offers little to no entertainment. Participation is voluntary, and those who don't participate generally show up to watch the challenges. Challenges are announced just a few days in advance, and they gradually increase in difficulty. For the winner, the cash payout is enough to get a good start in life- or get out of town.

My biggest complaint about this book is that the game itself really isn't all that. I think that I was expecting a Hunger Games-like immersion game, where the participants go in and play until there is only one. Instead, this game takes place a few hours at a time, with weeks between rounds. The real Panic, as it turns out, is the characters' increasing desperation to escape their miserable lives. This is the real story line, and it is a great one; I just felt a little mislead.

My favorite thing about this book is that it's a contemporary that feels absolutely genuine. It doesn't have a made-up-story feel; these characters are fully-developed, with realistic back-stories and families and the whole nine yards. I quickly didn't care about the game; I cared about the characters. I even wonder if that isn't the whole point of the novel; maybe it was originally a writing exercise to see if Oliver could do just that. If so, I think she's wildly successful.

I've read everything that Oliver has published, and every new project is wholly independent from those that came before. You may be disappointed if you're hoping for another Delirium or Before I Fall story line. If, however, you're a fan of Oliver's writing in general, you're in for a treat.


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.


  1. The summary reminds me of The Scorpio Races. I didn't like that book so it does make me wonder if I would like this too. I haven't read anything else by this author either. She must be great though since all of you ladies like her so maybe I'll look into one of her other books.

    1. Alyn, I loved the Scorpio Races, but this book didn't remind me of that one at all. I really don't think you'll see similarities.


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