The more I blog about books, the more I realize that there are a ton of "young adult classics" (yes, I just invented that term) that I should have read, but haven't. So it means that besides feeling pressured to read all the "original classics", my booklist keeps growing with YA books too. One of the authors that is on the must-read-YA-books-list is Lauren Oliver, author of the Delirium series and of Panic - which I finally picked up.
It sounds like the Hunger Games meets Divergent, but it actually isn't.
When I tried to explain the plot of the story to my roommate, she immediately thought Panic was some kind of Divergent or Hunger Games and I realised that my summary did make it sound like that. So first off I have to say - ban that idea from your mind. The book might sound the same with certain elements, but the feel of it is completely different.
Panic is a story about Carp, a deadbeat town in NY where high school seniors participate in a game called Panic each year. It's a competition with a hefty cash prize for the person who wins. But not everyone survives Panic - the challenges focus on fear and creating a sense of panic -- - almost each year, someone gets seriously hurts or dies.
This doesn't stop Heather and Dodge, the two narrators, from competing. Heather enters the game to show her ex-boyfriend, who cheated on her, that she isn't what he thinks she is (average and boring). Dodge enters to avenge his sister, who is wheelchair bound after a serious accident in the last round of her Panic games. At least, they start with those intentions. But as the game grows, people and situations change. Do they have what it takes to win?
The biggest difference between Panic and other challenge-driven books is that Panic is set in our society. These are normal teenagers, they could have been me, who have to function within our own world. They have pressures and worries that I also have, which made it really easy to relate to them. Would I participate in Panic? I'm not sure, but I do understand why they did it.
As I said before, the store alternates between Heather and Dodge. Heather is a pretty typical YA-narrator in the sense that she doesn't think she's beautiful, but then at the end of the book everyone finds her gorgeous blabla. Is this old? Definitely. Do I think it's worth dealing with those parts? Definitely.
She doesn't only find her beauty, but Heather finds her strength. She is put in situations that seemed beyond her abilities, but it turns out that she can be successful. Not only is Heather strong, but she is also a rock for people around her. I don't want to give too much away about her story, but I'm not sure who wouldn't like her as a character. She really grows from a stupid teenager to a great mature woman. Kudos to Heather.
Dodge on the other hand was a lot more foreign to me. His main drive is revenge and I just didn't really understand it. it's not like Lauren Oliver didn't explain it properly, but I just couldn't relate to it. What good would revenge do? But the fact that Dodge is so different from Heather means that everyone will find a character they like in the book. Whether you're "soft" like Heather or "hard" like Dodge (at least in the beginning of the book they are), you'll relate to someone and stay interested in the journey.
Finally some originality.
YA seems to be flooded with Dystopian novels and who can blame the writers? We readers are devouring one after another. However, sometimes I need a change of pace and Panic is the perfect in between of Dystopian and normal fiction. It's not quite another world, so as a reader you can relate to the universe the characters are in. Dodge and Heather also felt like they could have been my friends, like we could hang out over the weekend. Another bonus is that though this is "real life", the love stories in the book were never the main focus. This was about the challenges and any love complications were a side-story. Finally a novel set in this world without a love story! The challenges however, seemed so out of this world for me that there was plenty of room to let my mind wander. What would I do? How would I respond? Could I win Panic?
This book really was a thrill to read, with some excellent character developments and originality in the plot. However, I wasn't quite satisfied with the ending. It was so incredibly open, which might be beautiful and realistic for some people, but I can't let the story go! I want to know more about what happens to the characters and Carp. So it's not perfect, but it's pretty damn close. Four out of five for Panic.