Mitch's Reviews > Panic

Panic by Lauren Oliver
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really liked it
bookshelves: 4-star-favorites
Recommended to Mitch by: Katy

What is Panic? That's the question everyone seems to be asking. The book summary says it's a legendary, high stakes game played by graduating seniors in a dead-end town because there's nothing else to do. Those who've read the blurb seem to think it'll be the next Hunger Games. Frankly, I'm just surprised for a well known author as Lauren Oliver and a summary that couldn't be clearer, nobody seems to have a clue, and the people who do know aren't saying. Well, I'm saying, and here's my take: it's a shame nobody has a clue what Panic really is, because to truly enjoy and appreciate Lauren Oliver's newest book, you have to know, really know, what it's about.

What Panic is is a gritty contemporary set in dying small town America. It's about a group of teenagers who put their lives on the line, yes because they have nothing better to do, but really because it's the kind of town where everyone wants out but the only ticket any of them can afford is the one they can get only by pooling their money together - and it pays for only one person, of course. It might be hard to imagine, but there really are towns like Carp out there, heck whole cities even *cough* Detroit, and what I really like is how, behind the sob stories and the tearjerker moments of the individual players, Oliver's story captures the hopelessness and desperation of living in these towns, where everyone wants out simply because the truth is there isn't a future left by staying. Is Panic just a dumb game? Maybe. But it's also a golden ticket, an answer to a hopeless situation, a high stakes event with life changing repercussions - for the winner and the losers - and I like how the dumb game is really a foil for a story that's really about taking that one chance because these are towns that have left their residents broken and with nothing left to lose.

Even better, Oliver's made sure that that desperation comes through with every one of her characters. I'm not going to lie, these characters are unlikeable, they can be selfish, they can be self-centered, they can be vindictive, but that's also what makes them human. None of them have deep motives or anything, but that's the beauty of this story, they're desperate, they want out. In a way, Panic asks a very simple question - what would you do to win sixty grand? - but unlike any other story, Heather, Nat, and the other contestants, they're hungry for the money in a way others aren't, all thanks to this dead-end town of no prospects. And as a cautionary tale, there's Dodge, the only one not in it for the money, the one who knows, even if he doesn't understand, just how badly the greed and the desperation can turn out. It's this backdrop, this broken town of desperate people all needing that one payday because they've convinced themselves it's the one ticket to a future, and not the personal problems of any one character - although they are many, that makes Oliver's story work.

Of course, I'm not saying Panic can't be read as teens playing, you know, Panic, the game. Lauren Oliver does a great job writing the challenges that are part of the game, and even if I think the dead-end town feel is what makes the book, I did enjoy the challenges themselves too. I'd like to think of myself as someone who's read just about everything, but who knew she could make stealing guns from a drunk guy suspenseful and exciting? And not to spoil all the challenges, but later on I really liked how she could connect the final few eliminations back to that question I talked about earlier - just how desperate are you to win sixty grand? - so the book really works on two levels, the competition to win the prize as the summary teases but also the story of these towns where a crazy game like Panic can seem like a lifeline. In fact, I really only have two nitpicks - Panic doesn't have the best of starts with the way Heather's character is introduced and her really cliched reasons for initially participating in the game (cheating boyfriend lol) and the ending is kind of a letdown with its forced sense of closure, but otherwise, what a great story about a town of broken people.

On that note, yeah, Panic is certainly not yet another Hunger Games clone (The Testing is that way ->). It's really a quite brilliant look at a part of America that's not often seen in young adult fiction, and definitely kudos to Lauren Oliver for not only stepping out of the Delirium comfort zone, but more importantly, getting it right.
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Reading Progress

August 2, 2013 – Started Reading
August 2, 2013 – Shelved
August 3, 2013 –
page 300
August 3, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-34 of 34 (34 new)

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message 1: by Melissa (new)

Melissa review review review!!!

Mitch I have to wait for Katy to finish because we were reading it together for the blog but she wasn't really feeling it ???

message 3: by Word Traffic (new)

Word Traffic Whoa! Spill some details! What was so great about it? How does it compare to her other books?

Katy I'm done. I'm done. Not four stars for me though.

Mitch Yeah I know

WT it's more of a gritty contemporary I gotta put together something after I finish the stuff I'm paid to write

Mitch Melissa wrote: "review review review!!!

Here ya go

Btw Katy my computer's broken so I typed the whole review on an iPhone :p

Katy Do you know why I resent Panic as being "life changing?" Yeah, for those who were hurt. But for the good? Look what happened to Luke.

Mitch Another reason why I liked it, because even the winners didn't really 'win'

message 9: by Deniz (new)

Deniz omg! what difference in rating! lol.
guess i cant rely on my test-reading robo-team this time

Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies Hey! I liked The Testing :P

Great review, Mitch. I'm looking forward to this book.

Scarlet Great review Mitch! I love Oliver's writing. She can capture emotions so well! I really liked Delirium despite the not-so-convincing plot because Lena's exploration of love was so real. I'm looking forward to Panic now!

Mitch Deniz wrote: "omg! what difference in rating! lol.
guess i cant rely on my test-reading robo-team this time"

Yeah guess you'll have to try it for yourself?

Khanh wrote: "Hey! I liked The Testing :P

Great review, Mitch. I'm looking forward to this book."

Ok that wasn't a dig against the testing per se, just that it's what I think people's first impressions of this are. Ok maybe a little dig. No smirk emoticon tho

Scarlet wrote: "Great review Mitch! I love Oliver's writing. She can capture emotions so well! I really liked Delirium despite the not-so-convincing plot because Lena's exploration of love was so real. I'm looking..."

Thanks I hope you enjoy it as much as I did

message 13: by Deniz (new)

Deniz Mitch wrote: Yeah guess you'll have to try it for yourself?

yep. *grumbles*
*sigh* guess I have too.

Mitch Oh come on I don't think its a bad book at all

message 15: by Deniz (new)

Deniz Mitch wrote: "Oh come on I don't think its a bad book at all"

uhm apparently that's kinda the debate here :P

Mitch Yeah read it end the debate

message 17: by Deniz (new)

Deniz Damn! Didn't see that one coming. serves me right for being as smart ass lol

message 18: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon I have to discuss the ending with someone!

Mitch The ending to the competition or the last chapter afterwards? I thought the ending to the competition was awesome but the last chapter may have wrapped it up a little to nicely...

message 20: by Rita (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rita How did you get the book?

message 21: by Jon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jon @Mitch The competition ended on an epic note, but the rest of the book ended a bit too quickly.

message 22: by Emma (new) - added it

Emma Ah you already have the book :O

message 23: by Paige (new) - added it

Paige So jealous right now. I want to read it now :( March will not be here soon enough :/

message 24: by Eve (new)

Eve Thank you for posting a review and not just "wiggly" pictures.

message 25: by Coolgirl2000 (new) - added it

Coolgirl2000 actually delirium was stepping out of her comfort zone. this is more like her first book Before i Fall.

message 26: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Coleman "My sleep is filled with dreams / I never can fulfill them / I am a town." -- Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Shahd Great review! Couldn't agree more concerning the desperation of the characters

message 28: by Meth (new) - rated it 3 stars

Meth Randall Best review ever. And best synopsis too.

message 29: by Katie (new)

Katie You just got me to read this. It seemed like a Hunger Games clone before I read your review.

Holly :) ..... I'm currently reading this book. it's awesome so far

message 31: by Staceysbooks (new) - added it

Staceysbooks Such a great review! Can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

message 32: by Ania (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ania Nowak I agree with you and suggest reading the book first and then judging it. I write sometimes and I really admire Lauren Oliver, because I think she is vise and talented writter so I trust her and I know that the book she presents to us is at least good if not excellent ;)

michael L. alexander Yeah...

message 34: by Sp (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sp Your review was really great. I thought the summary on the book was a little brief, but now that I read your review I know what the book is really about, and I am excited to read it.

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