In the small town of Carp, New York where there is poor, and really poor, Heather Nill, Bishop Marks, Natalie Velez, and Dodge Mason are among a group of graduating seniors about to play the game of their lives where nobody knows who is judging them, the challenges are unknown until the last minute, and people have lost their lives participating. Where the winner walks away with more money than most people make in a single year!
Panic alternates POV's between Heather and Dodge but Natalie and Bishop more than make up for their presences. Let's be honest here folks, Panic is a story that delves into human nature, and how far a person will go in order to win. It explores what it truly means to live in a dead end town with a bleak future and the only hope that these teens have to move on from Carp, is to win the game of Panic where every senior puts money into the prize vault.
Panic is a high stakes game that involves challenges that test not only your mettle, but also pushes you to the extreme limits of your ability not to give up and quit. It starts with dive into a cold river, and moves on to walking a plank where if you fall, you will probably end up dead. From there, contestants face staying in a haunted house without crying out for help, and ending with a Joust, a game of chicken, to see who will flinch first. In-between, the contestants have to deal with the reality of every day life in Carp, which offers up challenges all its own.
For 18-year old Heather Nill, she's stuck living in Fresh Pine Mobile Park with her Eleven year old sister Lilly, and a mother and step-father who are truly uninspiring and awful and don't really give a fig what happens to Heather or Lilly as long as they can smoke dope, drink until they pass out, and inhale crack like it was going out of business. Heather's choice of participating in Panic is more of a whim than anything else at first since she has major self-esteem issues and experiences a bad break-up. But, as the understanding of what the money can mean to her future, an escape from Carp forever, she finds a way to push through her self-loathing and reach deep in order to survive and grows expediently over the course of the story including meeting the amazing Annie who takes her in and gives her something she didn't have before; HOPE.
Dodge Mason, who lives on Meth Row, has a secret that nobody knows about. He fully intends to win Panic for his older sister Dayna, who was a victim of one of its participants, by any means necessary. Dodge also lives in dreary conditions and the fact that he moved constantly when he was younger and never had a chance to meet his sperm donor father. I would say that Dodge's story is more or less a study of anger and despair and how far a person would go to get revenge on the person responsible for his sisters suffering. It is also interesting to see his feelings for Natalie develop over the course of this story, while Heather and Bishop experience a whole plethora of emotional baggage that I wouldn't have been so willing to forgive or forget.
Panic is a standalone CONTEMPORARY novel about living in a small town America and should not be compared to the Hunger Games, or the Delirium series in any way. For those who have, they are absolutely missing out on the undertow and purpose of the story. Each of Oliver's books focus on a specific emotions. Delirium is about love and the fact it was banned from society and people end up trying to change the course of history by fighting back. Panic is about dealing with your own fears, and friendships put to the extreme limits, while facing difficult a life living in a small town where hope is a fleeting moment in time that comes arbitrarily.
*I received this book for free from Edelweiss & Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
09/25/2013 Recvd via Edelweiss - Published: March 4th 2014 by HarperCollins
Author - Lauren Oliver
Title - Panic
Published by Harper Collins
Released - March 4, 2014
Genre - Contemporary
Format - E-Book 416 pages