Author: Lauren Oliver
Pages: 416 (Nook)
Synopsis: Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand 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 want to start by saying the synopsis of this book is not particularly fantastic. It makes the novel sound very close to something like the Hunger Games and it is really nothing like that at all. The story is far more contemporary than that. Panic is not a societal creation; it is a under the rug competition that the teenagers in town started for their own entertainment.
I personally loved this book. I think it is a fantastic twist on the usual contemporary YA novel. It has romance but its not about romance. It is completely realistic but also a wild ride of a read. You never know what is going to happen next and I became just as eager as the characters to know what the next challenge would be.
One of the biggest critiques of the book I have seen regards Heather's character. That it was hard to read because she was annoying at the beginning and they couldn't get past that. That's all fine and if that is enough to turn you off from a book than okay, but it seems to me that books would be really really boring with characters that start off perfect, not to mention it makes them impossible to relate to. How are you supposed to create character development without first creating flawed characters? So I'm not going to say that Heather is not annoying. I'm not going to say she isn't acting impulsively because of a bad break up. But I'm also not going to say this is a point against the book. She's 17 years old (18? I'm not 100%) and has just experienced what I am led to believe is her first major breakup; it is rather unfair to expect her to just get over it with a snap of her fingers. Heather, and all of the characters really, are often impulsive and immature, but they grow over the course of the story, which if you ask me is kind of the point.
Personally I loved the characters. Not in the sense that I loved them like I love Daenerys or Sherlock, but in that I love them as characters. I'm not sure, for example, if Nat and I would get along well or be best friends, but I loved her as a character. They are real. They are complex and thought out and have strengths and weaknesses and hopes and fears and personalities. And I really appreciate that in a book.
The biggest complaint I have about this book is the character development of Dodge. I feel like the ending wrapped up too quickly and even though all the external conflicts are resolved we miss out on seeing any resolution to his internal conflicts, of which he has many. We do not get to see his reaction to how things turn out or whether or not he grows and learns from the experience. I feel like this was definitely missing from the conclusion of the story and I was pretty disappointed when I was finished to have been left wanting it.
All in all I really enjoyed this book. I read it almost entirely in a single sitting and I did read it all in one day. I would most definitely recommend it!