Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver


Panic by Lauren Oliver
young adult contemporary thriller published by HarperCollins on 4 March 2014 

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She'd never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game; he's sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he's not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.



For the town of Carp, Panic is more than just a feeling. It's a rite of passage. It gives the town's sheriff something to investigate on and the townspeople something to look forward to in the summer. Most importantly, it gives its winner a chance to get the hell out of Carp. Panic is very real. But proving oneself worthy of winning more than 50K is more real than that. The catch? You'll never know who the judges are and you won't know what the challenges are until the day of. It's like a reality TV show that really has no script.

So something can always go wrong. And it does.

For starters, the stakes are high. The police are after anyone who may be playing Panic. The players are in for some real surprises and the ones who are really good at it do not even want the money so much. There's just this need to prove that they can play which is just really disappointing. When doing tasks, the players are all afraid but right before and after them, they're all...casual. This is what made Panic so drudging to me. The challenges are stupid and reckless but they really require hardcore courage to complete them. But I never got that from either Heather or Dodge.

Heather takes part in the game on a whim; though it's very clear what, or who, spurs her decision. Her life is hard and the only people who are constant in her life are her little sister, Lily and her best friend, Bishop. But Lily is having a hard time dealing with how things are at home while, Bishop seems distant right when Heather admits to herself that she might be falling for him. Nat, her other best friend, is just busy trying to win Panic so she can go to Hollywood to and start her modeling career.

Dodge is playing Panic for revenge. Despite everything that led him to that decision, I could never discount the feeling that the revenge aspect was stupid. Probably because it is. And that's all I got on him even though half the book is from his perspective. His role is typical; will-do-anything-to-win which got really old, really fast.

As a game, Panic isn't all it's cracked up to be. There is never any sense of desperation, the desperation to win. The competitive streak. That could be because of the way things proceeded because the revelation wasn't surprising to me as I picked off on all the hints before. By the time the end rolled in, everything just fizzled out.

I was never fully invested in the characters because their reasons for playing Panic did not equal the risks involved. Moreover, the tiny hints about the whole mystery took the surprise out of the whole thing. With a plot that never really grabbed me and characters who acted predictably, for me, Panic turned out to be a forgettable read. 


'Why did time have to be the wrong kind of relative?' 
'It was so strange, the way that life moved forward: the twists and the dead ends, the sudden opportunities. She supposed if you could predict or foresee everything that was going to happen, you'd lose the motivation to go through it all. The promise was always in the possibility.'


  1. This sounds really intense and dark so it's a shame that it didn't make you feel that while reading. I am a fan of Oliver's writing so I still think I'll give this a go!

  2. I had exactly the same problems with this book. I didn't connected with the characters at all. Such a shame!

  3. The more reviews I read for this, the less inclined I am to read it. Without high stakes and a running theme of nervousness/apprehensiveness about the game, what's driving Panic's plot forward? How will I avoid becoming bored if the characters are doing these risky and reckless tasks, but showing little in terms of an emotional response to those same tasks? Couple that with characters I don't think I could connect with and Panic wouldn't hold up well.

  4. I did not feel too inclined towards this book from the moment I read the synopsis. The idea of such games does not make sense to me at all.