Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: March 4th 2014
Rating: 4.5 stars
There was no joy left in the game - no lightness or humor at all.It seems that many people look at Panic's blurb and think that it's a Hunger Games rip-off. It's not. Although the blurb does seem to have similarities to HG, Panic is a completely different sort of game: everyone participates willingly; you can drop out any time you want; you don't fight to the death. Panic is a book of facing and fighting your fear, of becoming stronger than you already are, of finding yourself in a world as big as ours.
Each and every of the characters in Panic has their own problems and motivations and thoughts. Everyone participates in Panic for a reason: for money, for revenge, for showing others what you're made of. I really loved how Oliver displayed that all their motivations were miles apart, yet that they were all, in a way, fighting for the same thing: survival. Alliances are made, friendships bloom and romances emerge.
The characters were strong and well developed. Although I did not like all of the characters, they were real and true to their characterization. I might not have liked certain actions or decisions, but they were what that charater would have done. Every character we're introduced to has their own problems: Oliver shows us that life is hard for all of us. Although Heather and Dodge's problems were the ones that we saw most of, we get glimpses of the problems of the side characters as well. They were very real problems, too. My only complaint with this style is that we never see if and how the problems of the side characters are resolved. For example, I was quite interested in Nat's 'problem storyline', but we don't see very much of it. It frustrated me a little, but on the other hand: the only way we could have known how it ended was through cheating at narration, which I'm not a fan of either...
There are two romances in this book: one I shipped hard and one I didn't care much for. The first one was between Heather and *someone* (not sure if it's a spoiler, so I won't tell you who), and it was so incredibly sweet! I really shipped it hard and every tiny moment between them made my heart melt a little.
The other romance is between Nat and *someone* (again, not sure if spoiler). This one was mostly 'meh' for me. *Someone* was pretty sweet and his crush on Nat was very clear, but I couldn't care for it much. It could be that I just didn't like Nat all that much, though. Although she was a very fleshed out and real character, I just disliked her. Frankly, I thought she was a bit bitchy and the way she used certain people didn't make me sympathise with her either. Although she made it right later (or tried to), I still was a bit disappointed in her and it saddens me a little that people in real life behave like this too. Basically, what I'm saying is that Oliver shows us life and all its ugly sides. It's sad, but real.
The mystery element of the book surprised me: I thought that it would just be about two teens trying to win a game, but it's much more. Although the book revolves around the game, we see a lot of the lives of the characters and the things people are willing to do in order to win Panic. It was quite suspenseful at times. We're trying to figure out who the judges are (I had one down quite quickly, but I only realized the other was a judge at the exact moment Oliver wants her readers to), there's death, there are tigers and betrayal and gasps. My heart was almost beating out of my chest during the car scene at the end of the book! It was really scary and surprising.
The only element that disappointed me a little was the prose. When I hear the name Lauren Oliver, I basically go "pretty prose!". Because in Before I Fall and the Delirium series, her prose really stood out with its beauty. In Panic, we get glimpses of this beautiful writing, but most of the time the writing is pretty straight to the point. Althought that really disappointed me, it did fit the novel and it still flowed easily. It was still nice to read. I just wanted that 'whoa that was amazing'-writing and I feel like I didn't get that.
The best thing about this novel was, hands down, the portrayal of people and life. It's really crazy what people are willing to do for money and Oliver captured this madness perfectly in Panic. The problems that the characters had were real and serious. Life is hard and crazy. Oliver showed us that perfectly. But she did not only show that: she also showed us how you can learn from those hard times, how they can make you stronger and happier. She showed us that it's not impossible to overcome your fear. She showed us that you can rise above yourself. She showed us that there's always somthing worth fighting for and that there are always persons who love you no matter what you do. She showed us life in all its imperfect perfectness.
Panic is not a novel about a game. Panic is about life and all its facets, about solving your own problems, about overcoming fear. If you are looking for a book with true-to-life characters, suspense and tension, and a deeper message from which we can all learn, Panic is a must-read.