December 12, 2013

Panic by Lauren Oliver (eARC)

Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: March 4, 2014
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dystopia
Rating: 4/5 Stars

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.

*This review may contain minor spoilers.*

First off, let me just clear up one thing: this book is nothing like The Hunger Games. At all. I’ll have to admit I was skeptical at first as well, but don’t be suspicious. It is completely and totally original in every way.

The book begins right in the action and then proceeds to tell us a small snippet of back story. Because of this, we are drawn in right away. Beginnings like this make you want to read more so you will understand what happens, and Lauren Oliver always does it the right way. Instead of making it too confusing for us to even process, she makes it just clear and intriguing enough that we want to know more.

Panic is told in dual perspectives, though they are both third person. We learn the back stories of two contestants in the game of Panic, Heather and Doge. I loved hearing both of their perspectives and getting insight on their lives that we wouldn't otherwise see. The only complaint I had about this was the fact that sometimes the story felt more about Heather, Nat, and Bishop than it did Dodge. If we hadn't read from his perspective, Dodge would have definitely been a side character. It bothered me that he was considered a main character. Sometimes I even forgot about him until a chapter of his popped up.

This aside, each character is extremely well developed and seemed real. There are small side notes that make them more realistic and like real people. They also seem to have different personas—they can be caring and loving one moment but creepy and cruel the next. Even the minor characters are charming and add to the story. Take, for example, Anne, the old woman who takes care of all of these animals and eventually of Heather and her little sister Lily. She is extremely caring and adds to the story so much even though we don’t see her too often. I would go as far to say the novel wouldn't be the novel without her.

Lauren Oliver’s writing has really developed and become more adult. The descriptions are breathtakingly beautiful—sometimes I found myself rereading them just to take it all in again. But it isn't’t just descriptions. There are little sections of dialogue that put a smile on your face or make you laugh even during a serious scene. Her writing makes even the smallest things seem magical. She creates metaphors (especially out of the tigers—that was excellent) and leaves small hints of foreshadowing here and there.

Heather and Bishop’s relationship is realistic and true. Heather is ignorant to the fact that she loves Bishop, but it’s not a fake ignorance some authors try to create. She seems more in denial than anything, which makes sense.

Heather’s relationship with her best friend Nat is just as realistic. They slowly grow apart, but it’s natural and not at all forced. Their relationship patches up at least a bit in the end, which is a good thing, and was also something I expected.

The ending is somewhat satisfying, and it makes sense that there isn't going to be a sequel. But I have to say, the last chapter was a bit disappointing. It’s an epilogue of sorts without coming right out and saying it’s an epilogue. It is quite short, and I felt like there was a hole between those final two chapters. Did Dodge ever apologize? How did Heather and Bishop’s relationship suddenly become repaired? What happened to the other tiger Heather found in the end? What about Dayna and Dodge’s family? I understand that Lauren Oliver is a fan of open endings. Requiem is another example, and while I really loved that ending, I struggled a bit with this one. Aside from this and a few notes about the characters, I loved Panic.

Lauren Oliver’s Panic is a gripping tale of reality within fantasy, truth in a world of phonies, and most of all, overcoming fear. I would recommend it to fans of YA contemporary and dystopian, as it possesses traits of both.

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