I am a big fan of Oliver. I’ve been carrying her torch for years now after I was greatly awed by her Before I Fall and Delirium (with the exception of that awful Requiem) novels. However, that torch started to lose its brightness after my sore disappointment with Requiem. As I now hold the said torch, I am afraid that its light will soon gonna die. Oliver is really losing her touch as a writer. Panic is not only a disappointment but it’s also an embodiment of my crushed dreams. I thought it’s going to be the book that would erase the horrors left by Requiem. Alas, it’s not.
As unique as the premise may sound, Panic really has nothing new to offer. It’s just about an 18 year old girl who participated in a deadly game called, Panic, because of her sister. Sounds familiar? No worries though. Before your mind starts shouting “THG rip off”, please know that this book is 60-70% different. Instead of a dystopian setting, Panic is set in a contemporary-ish world where people live normal lives. No totalitarian government to be afraid of, no technology to be wary of, no freaking plague to run from…everything is just realistic. And joining the game isn’t compulsory. It’s even illegal and anyone who will be caught participating in it will earn prison time.
My biggest problem with this novel is the whole crazy concept of Panic. Its history is really ambiguous. The author as well as the characters didn’t know how and why it existed. Two explanations were given: 1. The Carp populace was bored so instead of starting gambling dens or drag racing, they started Panic; 2. There was a massive unemployment and people need to earn extra income. Whether it’s number 1 or 2, both are stupid reasons. It’s even more idiotic because the prize money is only 50,000-60,000 U$ and yet, the participants will be doing crazy stunts that could result to invalidity and fatality. The game runs for the whole summer and every week, the participants will have to overcome deadly obstacles. The injury and death toll is high and senior students still do it because of the prize. Grrrr.
As if the above fact wasn’t infuriating enough, the mediocre or lack of world building grated on my nerves to no end. Carp is a civilized town (with ONLY 12,000 residents) which means that there are police officers enforcing the law. However, their incompetence was really laughable. Panic has been going on for years and their moronic asses didn’t even know where to look for leads. Every teenager student in town knows Panic since they’re pretty much bullied to contribute $$$ to form the prize money. And yet, all the police know are nonsensical information about the game. For the most part,they’re just grasping at straws. The only thing that they have managed so far is to put up notices banning everyone from joining Panic. Other than that, nada. What a mess!
Apart from the world building and concept, I also felt indifferent towards the characters. Panic has 4 main characters named Heather, Bishop, Dodge and Natalie. All of them are just so hard to like. I don’t know why… maybe we don’t have compatible zodiac signs or something. Heather and Natalie are whiny b-tches. Meanwhile, Dodge and Bishop are just average male leads who didn’t make my heart falter.
Panic’s plot suffered from predictability. There were some thrilling scenes here and there but I expected all of them. Even the author’s attempt at twists failed miserably. I was utterly bored while reading this book. There were times that I literally shook my laptop in the hopes that things will get better. But just like a jaded ox, I plowed a barren rice field with no hope of a golden harvest.
Summing it up, I would never rush to our local bookstores in a panic to get Panic. There are only two positive things about this book: 1. It’s a standalone (Woohoo) and 2. Lauren was able to maintain the lyrical quality of her prose. But still, both aren’t enough to save the whole story from becoming a gigantic fiasco.
Thanks to Harper Collins for the free ARC!