Book Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

I’ve loved everything Lauren Oliver has written so far, I’d list her as one of my favourite YA authors and anything she publishes is a must read. But I suppose there’s a likelihood that eventually there’s going to be one book from an author you expect so much from which doesn’t quite live up to your expectations and sadly, Panic was that book.

Don’t get me wrong. This is far from a terrible book. The premise is fascinating and took me by surprise a little as I was fully expecting a dystopian/Hunger Games type of story. In fact, Panic is very contemporary in setting. Based in Carp-a run down town in modern day America-where life is tough and prospects low for the young residents. Panic is the name of a game devised as both an alleviation to boredom and the chance of escape to better things. The idea is that all high school students donate to a prize pot throughout the year, then in summer the game opens to those who’ve just completed their final year. Through a series of increasingly dangerous and terrifying challenges, competitors must avoid elimination with the last person taking the entire prize of around $60,000.

It could have been so good. Sadly though, it lacked a lot of atmosphere, which in turn made the whole concept unbelievable. I’m more than willing to believe that everyday teens could be so disillusioned they’d risk their lives for a chance to win, but Lauren Oliver didn’t manage to convince me in this book and I ended up thinking these were just reckless idiots rather than the seriously desperate.

The story is told in alternating chapters by Heather and Dodge and I failed to connect with either of them. I couldn’t really of cared less who won by the end. Of the two, I could understand Dodge’s reasons for playing the game more than Heather’s. I really struggled with why she’d do this, being the only one to watch out for her supposedly beloved younger sister. Very surprisingly, the romance isn’t between the two main characters, so thumbs up to the unpredictability of that! Sadly though, the two romances involved were pretty unromantic and lacked any real chemistry. I think I’d have preferred predictable after all.

I did find it very readable and was invested enough to want to keep going. Lauren Oliver’s writing is as good as ever in that regard. I was just really disappointed by the lack of tension…for this book to really work it should have been crackling off the pages. I’m afraid I was unconvinced and disappointed this time.


Published by Hodder (UK) March 2014

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