What do you want first? The good news, or the bad news?
The bad news is, Panic isn’t as good as Before I Fall. Ever since I read that one, I’ve (probably unfairly) compared all of her other books to its high standards. This one is close, but it just isn’t as powerful.
The good news? This book is far and away better than any book that Oliver has written that ends in “ium”.
Delirium. Pandemonium. Requiem [sic]. Panic far surpasses those offerings.
Panic is story of Heather, a recent high school graduate in a crappy town in upstate New York. She and her little sister live in a trailer park with their worthless mother, and Heather dreams of a better life anywhere else.
And so, without even knowing she was going to do it, Heather enters Panic — an annual competition for the senior class with a huge financial payoff for the winner. The only catch? Panic could ruin your life — previous students have been seriously injured and even killed.
Contestants are challenged to perform stunts ranging in difficulty from jumping into a quarry in the dark to spending 10 seconds in a fenced-in area with two tigers. Everyone in town knows about Panic, and about the dangers of Panic, but nobody in any position of authority really does anything about it…until, of course, it’s too late…
Heather and her friends form a sort of “alliance” — promising to help each other to complete the challenges and then split the prize money. But are they all being honest about that? Do they really plan to work as a team until the very end, or will there be some double-crossing?
I think one of the reasons that this book actually worked for me was that Lauren Oliver has a real ability to write and express herself like a real teenager. Her take on everyday life — going to the mall, getting ready for a party, breaking up with someone — is quite realistic. UNLIKE her take on love in a dystopian future…
I know I complain a lot about Oliver, but it’s only because I think she’s a real talent who is capable of great writing. Panic is definitely a step in the right direction for her.