Panic by Lauren Oliver

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Panic by Lauren Oliver

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: When the stakes are this high, do you stay and play or do you... Panic? A deadly game with a reward that's enough to keep you playing, this is an exciting book that gambles with the lives of its characters. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 408 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Harperteen
ISBN: 978-0062295149

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Every summer, a game takes place in Carp. The stakes are high and the prize is big, a life changing amount of money for the person who can hold their own the longest and outlast their competitors. Anyone from the graduating class of high school can enter, and many do, but in the end, only one can win. Along the way the contestants’ limits are tested, pacts made and broken, and secrets revealed. From some of the challenges, there may be injuries, traumatic or even fatal, but the lure of the prize money is so great that many choose to ignore the risks.

Heather and Dodge are two of the competitors, both in it to win it, but for different reasons. For Heather, it’s the chance to build a better life for her and her little sister. For Dodge, it’s about revenge. Both are driven to succeed but as the competition grows fiercer it’s unclear who will be able to stick it out the longest.

I found the premise for Panic an intriguing one and while some of the challenges are so extreme you can’t believe people take part, the motivation is clear. A dead end town. Knowledge of a better life outside its borders, but no resources to leave. Panic is a tradition in Carp, so many of the competitors have seen their older siblings and friends play before them. It is a rite of passage for this group of 18 year olds, and the secrecy of it binds them as a group even when the last school bell has rung.

I really enjoyed losing myself in this book which is structured around the challenges which the group face one by one, with the competitor numbers dwindling with each elimination. The kids may be just that – kids – and there are lots of troubled situations and backstories to learn about, but in some ways they are just like any other teenagers, pushing their boundaries, learning their limits. The book alternates between Dodge’s story and Heather’s, but is told in the 3rd person throughout, allowing it to feel a little distanced, like it’s an outsider narrating on what he observes.

This is my second Lauren Oliver read, and I enjoyed it as much as I did the earlier one. It’s teen fiction but with a twist, smart, inventive, well imagined, acutely observed. These are not the privileged teenagers you might often meet in books by the likes of Ally Carter or Helen Schulman and this makes them extremely relatable, as they come across more as ordinary kids in an extraordinary situation. This is a book which really makes you think long and hard about who we are and what drives us to do what we do. Throw in a little peer pressure and a lot of danger, and it’s really a first class read.

I’d like to thank the publishers for sending us this book to review.

This reminds me of The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins though the scary thing, compared to the latter, is that this one isn't in a weird alternative world. It's in the here and now. And it's even scarier for it.

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Buy Panic by Lauren Oliver at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Panic by Lauren Oliver at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Panic by Lauren Oliver at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Panic by Lauren Oliver at


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