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Panic - Lauren Oliver

I want to like Lauren Oliver’s books, I honestly do. They all have really interesting premises and colorful characters. Yet, somewhere between point a and point b, the ball gets dropped and I never end up enjoying the books as much as the summary would make me believe.

Panic is no different. Though I wasn’t as disappointed with this one as I was with Delirium. Where Delirium was romance driven, this book mainly focuses on Heather and her attempt to carve out a place for herself in the universe. Even the chapters with Dodge – while a nice break from Heather’s point of view – mainly held action and mystique instead of his own unique plot arc. He’s out for revenge, sure, but that seems to be all he’s got. Once that is gone, he deflates like a balloon.

Why the cover of the book is some girl standing there with windswept hair on a black background, I’ll never know. The premise offers so much more than the cover ever will. In a somewhat small town, the graduating seniors play a game of high stakes Fear Factor. It’s played over the whole summer and the winner takes home a hefty amount of money. The people running Panic are always anonymous, chosen the year before by the previous management. It has an air of mystery about it, as one never knows when the next challenge will be announced, or what it will be. Even the solo challenges are a mystery. Eventually, the challengers are whittled down through these tasks, via fear or injury and the last one standing takes the pot.

Heather decides to compete in the challenges, an impulse decision that diverts her summer’s course. She wants to prove her worth and her mettle. Even though she competes, the entire book is Heather trying to accomplish both those things. She lives in a trailer with her dead-beat mom and her younger sister, Lilly, whom she provides motherly support to. When Heather loses her job, a stroke of luck has her in the right place at the right time to meet Anne, a widower with a ton of land and animals who could use a farmhand.

Anne owns two tigers, who obviously come into play at the climax, culminating in trust issues for everyone involved. Even Heather’s best man friend (she’s got another friend named Nat, but Nat was annoying and inconsequential), Bishop, who is a terrible cliché and disappointment on most levels, takes this point to expound upon all the obvious things we’ve figured out about him. And while that’s supposed to be the romance mentioned in the summary, I was surprised and disappointed to find that it wasn’t between Heather and Dodge. I mean, that’s how dual narrators work, right?

All through this Dodge is having feels about the game and his sister’s demise in it several years earlier. He is battling his conscience and his thirst for revenge throughout the whole book, though he mostly sets up the action and acts as the hero for Heather’s idiotic strategies.

I could digress for hours on this book, but why bother? It wasn’t that bad of a premise and could have delivered far more intense action. Sadly, it flounders around for footing that it never really grasps. If you’re into a book that delivers obvious plot developments that you can see forming halfway through the book, this one’s for you.