By Lauren Oliver
I bought this book at random from a thrift store trip years ago. I put it on the shelf and forgot it existed.
Panic is a decent novel. It lands smack in the middle of dramatic thriller YA, and I admit that if I’d read the book when I first got it, I probably would have liked it more. I was a lot closer to high school age back then.
My biggest complaint with Panic was how predictable it was. I’d guessed the “big reveal” (and other reveals) very early on in the novel, which meant my overall satisfaction with it decreased. I still had fun reading the book though! The different scenarios involving the game, Panic, were clever, dangerous, and executed well. The characters reacted differently and, more importantly, believably to the challenges they were presented with.
As a reader, you’re introduced to a group of kids, troubled for one reason or another. One with neglectful parents, one with a disabled sibling in need of physical therapy, one with untreated OCD (otherwise “normal” with loving family) and one who also grew up relatively normally but has a dead mother and a hoarder father.
The makings of a great cast, right? Diverse lives and experiences. They all want the same thing: the money from the game of Panic to escape their beaten down town, the place they perceive as the root of their problems. In some ways, they aren’t wrong. These are kids traumatized by life and see Panic as a way out. I agree that money can fix an awful lot, and a whole lot of money is on the line in this book. How much? Let’s just say I could pay off my student loans and still have some left over if I’d participated and won in a game of Panic. Not that I believe I would.
Which brings me to another point: would you participate in a game of Panic? The stakes aren’t small. People die or are maimed while playing. But, if you win, you’ll suddenly find yourself with a lot of money to make a new life for yourself. If you say you wouldn’t play, why is that? In some ways, the book Panic is a privilege check, and it’s one thing about the book I liked very much.
There’s a little bit of romance thrown in. Nothing unexpected. The characters are a bunch of teenagers, after all. When emotions run high, people tend to look to each other for support. Teenagers often view that support through a romantic lens. However, romance is not the focus of Panic. At all.
Overall, I enjoyed my read of Panic. I can’t recall reading anything quite like it before, so if you’re looking for a YA thriller that has lots of drama, a sprinkle of romance, and tons of emotional angst, Panic might just be for you!