Book Ninety of 2014: Panic by Lauren Oliver

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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.

I found out about this book through a website article about the “it” female young adult authors of 2014. I had heard of Lauren Oliver, but never read anything from her. The article said great things about this book. So, I went ahead and got it from the library.

Panic is awesome! It fel like part psychological thriller and part coming of age. The idea that a small town has a tradition where teens participate in dangerous situations may seem illogical and crazy, but through the way Lauren Oliver writes, I could believe it. I was reminded of how bored I was when I lived in a fairly small town in North Carolina. There was nothing to do. I was lucky that most of my summers were with my Dad in Virginia Beach(and that I moved).

Though I don’t think most of everyone stayed after graduation in the small town of my memories, the fictional Carp has many residents who have been there since birth and will stay until death. Hence, the need for entertainment and a competition that the kids use to prove something.

Obviously, Panic (the game) is a disturbing version of truth or dare without the truth. You will find yourself at the edge of your seat through the book. The dares that were thought of are just crazy and messed up. No doubt I would’ve been out well before the game started.

Okay, like I said before the concept is crazy and the writing is great. It’s simple, pulls you in, and you can believe that such a town and game exist. The characters don’t falter. I found myself loving the supporting cast as much as the two focal characters: Dodge and Heather. And before you start groaning about a romance between the two, there isn’t, so there.

Dodge is a loner with a seriously terrible plan. I loved how he was planning something completely messed up and yet, the reader sympathizes with him. I was fully expecting a villain like character, but really, he was a guy without friends and wanting to protect the one person who meant the world to him. His sister. I can get that. I love how even though he is confident and has this strong air, he clearly shakes up every now and then. It made him real.

Even though I couldn’t relate to Dodge or Heather in a background kind of way, I could in their emotions. I understood Dodge’s motivation and though it scared me, I still loved him. I loved Heather’s strong personality and could see who she was that she couldn’t see. I loved that the author was able to do that. She gave the reader the full character, but the character had to go through a series of tests to realize who they were.

This is an awesome book and is highly recommended. Also, the 408 pages don’t feel like 408. It moves fast.

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