Review - Panic by Lauren Oliver

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

By Lauren Oliver
Released: March 4th, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Purchased

I’ll be the first to praise the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver. I was absolutely fascinated by her worldbuilding; the thought that love could be considered a disease, and that humans had found a way to eradicate it from existence, was something that drew me in from page one and I was a die-hard fan from page one. So when I found out that Lauren had a new book in the works, Panic, I immediately added it to my To-Read shelf. Unfortunately, this book didn’t live up to my expectations…

Panic is a game that is played by high school students in Carp, New York the summer after they graduate. All through their senior year, seniors donate a dollar to the Panic games everyday and, by the time summer rolls around, there are upwards of 50,000 dollars to be had – but only if you’re the sole winner of Panic. Panic itself is a series of challenges, oftentimes very dangerous, that students have to face in order to proceed to the next round. Challenges run the gamut – from diving off high cliffs, to walking across water towers, to individual challenges that are meant to pit the participants against their own personal demons. The final challenge, the Joust, determines the winner of the games. 

Each person who plays Panic has their reasons. Some students wish to go to college with the winnings, some wish to get out of miserable Carp. Similarly, our main characters - Heather, Dodge, and Natalie – all have their own reasons. Heather wants a better life for her and her sister, Dodge is out for revenge, and Natalie longs for a future far away from the east coast. They all enter the games and the majority of the novel details the challenges they face as they play the game. 

Now, this is where my first issue with the book comes into play. While the premise of Panic is interesting, there is no way the games would last one summer, let alone the many years that the high schoolers say it’s been going on. The police are depicted as pretty simple and moronic in the book. Every now and then they’ll bust the games and cause the kids to scramble and flee or risk arrest, but that’s about it. They don’t really go to any more measures to see that kids or innocent civilians aren’t hurt. It’s insinuated that the police are actively trying to keep Panic from taking place, but we never see that happening. In one instance, the kids are forced to break into someone’s home and steal – and it wasn’t even mentioned if the police were called! You can bet if a bunch of people broke into my house, I’d be calling the cops and I wouldn’t rest until all my belongings had been recovered. It’s called clues, people. If a bunch of stupid high school kids all illegally entered someone’s house – particularly if they were getting shot at – they would’ve left fingerprints or foot prints in the mud or something. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out who had done it. And that’s only one instance in which the cops prove useless in the story. 

Besides that, it’s really hard to like the main characters of the story. Natalie is seen as something of a whore. She strings along boys for the fun of it and Dodge is downright crazy. To keep from revealing too much, his family was greatly wronged and he’s out for revenge. I can completely understand being angry – hateful even – when someone has done me wrong. But I don’t bike to said person’s house with a knife intending to kill them. Oliver tries to paint him in a sympathetic light, but… I’m sorry. I just can’t feel sorry for someone who so easily feels they can take another person’s life. This kid doesn’t need to be participating in Panic. He needs to be in a hospital somewhere getting counseling. 

Heather is the only likeable character, in my opinion. And her reasons for participating in Panic – while at first were questionable – eventually become admirable. She feels a great responsibility to her sister and I certainly can respect that, considering everything she went through during the games. Not only that, but she seems like the only character that evolved and grew at all throughout the story. She’s unsure, heartbroken, and bitter at the beginning of the novel, but by the end she had transformed into a confident young woman. Her friends, however, remained stagnant. 

The ending wasn’t very satisfying, either.  Much of the conflict that was raised during the book between the friends wasn’t resolved. Well, at least not in front of us. We’re just to assume that they worked through everything, since they were all buddy-buddy and cheerful in the epilogue. I

think the story would’ve been much stronger –  and the characters more well-rounded – had Oliver addressed these issues rather than just stating that everything was fine and honky-dorey.

At any rate, it wasn’t a bad story. Oliver’s prose is nice and I can respect the message she was trying to get across (that things, times, and ultimately, people change) but the execution definitely needed some work. Even now, after review it, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. It wasn’t bad, but it definitely had its flaws. If you’re a fan of Oliver, like me, I’d say give it a chance. But if you aren’t a loyal fan, it might be best to skip.


  1. I keep seeing this cover and was curious about it. Thanks for the detailed review!! It seems really over the top, but I may give it a chance. :)

  2. Thanks for the sweet comment, Michelle! It's definitely a different book, but if you can suspend your reality a bit, it can be pretty good. I hope you like it if you get around to it! :)