Thursday, February 20, 2014

ARC Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

The blurb as seen on Goodreads:
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
416 Pages

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.

In the extremely poor town of Carp, New York, graduating seniors get the chance to play a game – a game that could end with them winning a ton of money. But it could also end in pain or death. It’s called Panic: multiple different challenges to weed out contestants until the last ones standing compete in the joust, the final challenge. 

The story followers our two challengers: Heather and Dodge. Heather wasn’t the obvious player. She was just there that night to cheer on her best friend, Nat. But something changed in her and in a flash she entered the game. While Heather is figuring out what she is doing, Dodge is hell bent on entering the game for one reason – and it’s not the cash prize. Aside from our players, we have two other important characters. First, there’s Nat. She’s the best friend of Heather and the object of Dodge’s infatuation. She, too, also enters the game. Then there’s Bishop, the trusty lifelong friend of Heather and chauffeur to all of the events. He’s basically there for moral support. 

Panic is split between the narrations of both Heather and Dodge which gave us a nice insight to both of them. Heather, I felt, grew up emotionally throughout the game. She constantly rose to the challenges and became stronger, deciding early on that she was going to win for her sister. Dodge, on the other hand, was a little more complicated. His point of view was either full of daydreams of Nat or spent plotting revenge for his sister. I never really found myself rooting for him like I did Heather. And I honestly couldn’t see why he liked Nat so much. Nat was possibly the worst character in this book. She was selfish, shallow, whiny, manipulative, possessive and jealous. I absolutely hated everything about her. Her true colors were revealed very early on and I just couldn’t understand how people still stood by her. Her actions are never explained. Why did she do what she did? Why was she so against Heather joining the game? She’s completely unsupportive of Heather, but clings to her when she needs her. I despised her from early on and it never got better.

I was also a little surprised, and happy, that the love interest for Heather wasn’t Dodge. Most YA books would have had the two challengers fall in love with each other while trying to win the game, but Oliver went the other way. Heather and Dodge built a friendship but maintained feelings for others. It was easy to see that Heather had feelings for Bishop but fought them because of their friendship. Bishop was adorable. I loved him. However, I figured out his secret early on so if Oliver wanted that to be an OMG moment, she failed. 

The game itself was definitely intense. The challenges are designed to test and push the players to the edge. Some of the things they did were crazy and I don’t really understand why the hell people would actually sign up for this. Things get ugly, alliances are formed and then broken, and people are betrayed. It has all the good makings of a hit – but there’s something about it, and I still can’t put my finger on it, that just rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it was the ending, which didn’t feel real to me. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but the ending the author wrote seemed out of character for some of our kids. Things happened in this book that I don’t feel people would just overlook and move on. A lot of my anger sits with Nat. 

I liked it – but I didn’t. I don’t know how else to describe it.

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