Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver


Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 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.


I’ve never read any of Lauren Oliver’s other books, but when I’m glad I decided to give this one a try. First of all, I love the cover. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and all – blah, blah, blah – but, I’ll admit that I completely judged this book by its cover and that’s about 40% of why I picked it out. Judge my judgement, please.

The premise of this book is this: In the small town of Carp, there is a game called Panic comprised of half a dozen “dares” that graduated seniors can participate in for a chance to win a large amount of money. People have died during these dares and others have been seriously injured. It’s a BIG DEAL. The narration switches off between the POVs of Heather and Dodge as they enter the competition (and, despite what I originally thought, they are not romantically involved). Friendships are tested and broken. Romance blooms. Inner courage and self-confidence are found. The perilous game of Panic is a test of the whole person.


PG-13: Cuss words (not excessive) and a few mentions of sexual content (again, not excessive)


I’ll be honest – this book surprised me. I expected it to take a right turn into cheesy dystopian novel territory, but it kept on chugging into a league of its own. It wasn’t hard to believe that a small town could host a contest like Panic and the characters and their feelings throughout the game were believable. Heather and Dodge made for admirable narrators and I felt a lot of compassion for their unfortunate backgrounds. I felt like they were people that wouldn’t have been friends if not for the dangerous game and I loved that they were brought together by Panic. Both were changed by the contest and they discovered courage they didn’t know that they possessed. I love reading about positive transformations!


I was pleased with this novel, but a bit of Heather’s thinking worried me. In the beginning, Heather participates in the game to get revenge on the boy that has just recently dumped her (no spoilers there, it’s in the first chapter – I promise). She’s upset that her friend, Nat, gets all of the boys’ attention and I got the feeling that she felt worthless because there weren’t any boys paying attention to her. I felt like nothing really changed by the end. She still needed a boy’s approval to feel like she was worth something. Maybe I’m reading too deeply into this, but I felt like that was a character flaw of Heather. I’m not saying that it’s not realistic, because it’s more than realistic. Almost every girl would be lying if they said they’ve never felt that way at least one time or another. Panic changes her, but in the end I felt like she still possessed low self-esteem. She was kicking butt throughout the novel and character development was stressed multiple times! What gives? Otherwise, I was pleasantly surprised by this gem.

I give this delightful read a 4/5! 🙂


4 thoughts on “Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

  1. I think I gave it four stars, too. The points you brought up about Heather’s thinking bothered me a bit, but I also found some of the challenges a little bit far-fetched. Like, I didn’t believe that teenagers would be so reckless in assigning such challenges. Overall, though, I enjoyed it. You should definitely check out Oliver’s other books, like the Delirium series, if you liked this one!


    1. I hadn’t really thought about the challenges (for some odd reason), but I agree with you. They did seem a bit drastic for only 65 thousand dollars (especially the “cross the 6-lane highway” one). At the end of the day, I feel like we just have to “go with it” as readers. I think I will check out her other books when I have the time. Thanks for the comment 🙂


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