I shouldn’t have been so worried. Panic does have some problems(which I’ll get to) and it’s far from my favorite Lauren Oliver book, but I really do think the contemporary/realistic fiction genre is where Oliver’s writing really shines. Panic reminded me why I list her as one of my favorite writers in the first place, and the way Carp, the small town mentioned in the summary, is portrayed is an excellent reflection of what a lot of my formative years were like(without the giant game of truth-and-dare with potentially deadly consequences).
Basically, the story of Panic is this: Carp is a small, dying town. It’s the kind of place you feel trapped in, even in the modern world that offers you the technology to get OUT(mainly because sometimes it’s very difficult to afford to get out). You can’t really go up after high school graduation–you can only go out, or become stuck forever. And that’s when the game of Panic comes in. It’s a giant game of dares, some deadly, and there’s a winner at the end of the bravery. The prize for that winner? MONEY. And a LOT of it. Which is how you get the people playing Panic who might otherwise never play such a game–they’re desperate. They want out of Carp. And Panic just may let them do it.
I thought Oliver did a fantastic job of writing Heather and Dodge. Neither of them are particularly likable people, but their story is, at heart, a character driven one. Dodge’s desperation shone through page after page. I think I may have found his story most interesting precisely because his reason for playing Panic was so different from most of the students.
Heather reminded me quite a bit of most of the people I went to high school with. People just desperate to get OUT of the small, dying town that was too closed off for even a Wal-Mart. And while Heather made some pretty dumb decisions, I understood most of them. I disagreed with pretty much all of her life choices, and yet I couldn’t help but to feel sorry for her.
But what Oliver really succeeded at wasn’t just capturing these two characters; it was capturing the desperation of teenagers who are desperate for something better, and want the money to achieve it. Many of them put their life at risk willingly if it means dying somewhere else besides Carp. And it just made me remember how I was when I was eighteen, the summer before college, wondering if I was actually going to achieve my goal–if I was actually going to be able to move away from my town where everyone knew me by name, where everyone knew who my family was and things that had happened in my family, and where our biggest attraction was a Chia pet statue commemorating the Chisolm trail(I kid you not). And the way Lauren Oliver portrayed that sense of urgency to get out and go ANYWHERE else was perfect.
However, I did mention I had some pretty big problems with Panic at times. Here’s the thing: I could buy into the premise of Panic at the beginning of the story. It was deadly and dangerous, but sometimes people do deadly and dangerous things, willingly, and think of them as fun. It’s just all a big game. That part was fine. However, something happened midway through the book, and after that happened, I felt the story sort of lost it’s footing a little. Nothing major, but there seemed to be a slight decrease in the quality of the plot and there were a few “filler” scenes that felt unnecessary to me.
The other thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the ending. It wasn’t bad(and definitely nowhere near Requiem-level dislike), but it did feel like everything was sort of rushed. There were a few story lines I felt wrapped up too easily without consequences, which I thought a bit sloppy for this book, since I feel Lauren Oliver has done so well at that in the past. There were some things at the end I was pleased with, and I did like the characters’ journeys, but it was all tinged with the feeling that the resolution happened a little too quickly.