Panic (2014) – Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver’s Panic is a page-turner on a monumental scale. I can’t remember the last time I was so swept up in the narrative of a story. I had to find out what happened next.

As much as I have been enjoying my foray into the tales of Ian Fleming’s 007, and the writings of Agatha Christie (alongside Star Wars and Trek stories) I needed a quick break, and put my library card to good use, and took out Panic (I wanted to read it before I watched the series on Prime). And I loved it.

Positioned as a young adult novel, the story takes us to the small town of Carp, where every year the graduating class is given the chance to take part in a contest, known as Panic, with the reward being an outrageous, possibly life-changing amount of money.

The story introduces us to Heather, her best friend Nat, her guy friend, Bishop, and Dodge. All of whom become involved in the contest in one way or another. Heather, and Dodge (who share the narrative) both have reasons for wanting to win, and they are both determined to see it through.

But there can only be one winner, and as each challenge through the summer comes along, the stakes get raised, the fear increases, and Panic threatens to consume them. Alliances, friendships and romances come into play in their graduating summer, but all of them have secrets they are keeping from one another, and all of them struggle, day to day, with just being themselves, and growing up.

I love how this story just whipped along, and I would have to put the book down to recover, momentarily, from some of the reveals and contests, before eagerly diving in again to devour more. Panic is a book that reminds you how fun it is to read (in case you’ve ever forgotten), how easy it is to get wrapped up with characters, and how a good writer can just make you feel!

Each of her characters has a reality to them, fully realised, and none of them live a blissful CW-image existence. Like everyone at that age, they are just trying to figure themselves and their lives out, and, in this case, just happen to be thrown into a contest that involves confronting a lot of fears.

Oliver trusts to the intelligence of her reader, she doles out the tale in addictive fashion, and it reads in a completely captivating fashion. A quarter of the way through the book, I had already decided I wanted to read more of her novels, so I’m glad there’s a few more out there to get through.

And while, like me, you may be excited for the Prime series (which will have dropped by the time you read this), do yourself a favour, and read the source material first! You won’t regret it.

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