29 May, 2014

Book Review: Panic

From Goodreads: 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.

Thoughts: I was looking for a new audio and I remembered this one from Shelia's blog, so I took a chance, signed up at audible.com and downloaded it. Glad I did.
Panic is about so much more than the game. Each player has their reasons for entering - for some it's the glory, for some it's the money, for some it's their only ticket out of town.The town is small, dying and almost everyone wants to get out. There is a hint of desperation to the town and it's younger inhabitants - escape now or end up stuck here forever.
As well as Dodge and Heather, there is Natalie, Heather's best friend and Dodge's crush and Bishop, another close friend of Heather's. As supporting characters, Nat and Bishop are incredibly well formed. They are three dimensional and have their own little stories going on. I picked Bishop's secret fairly early on, but it in no way detracted from the story for me.
The adult characters were mostly in the background (as they often are in YA books), but were a lot more fleshed out that a lot of adults in YA fiction.
As the game progresses, the stakes become higher and the challenges more dangerous. Oliver cleverly reflects the tension in the disintegrating relationships of the characters. Like the games highs and lows of completing a challenge and then having to wait nervously for the next note, the relationships in the book between friends and family ebb and flow as the tension builds and releases. Panic is not just about the game, it's about testing friendships, loyalty, value and courage in all part of your life. You could read it just for the game, but you would be missing out on so much more.
Most probably one of the most appealing aspects of Panic is the fact it's a stand alone YA book written by an author who has a proven track record with a series (Oliver also wrote the popular Delirium series). I haven't read the series (but am more likely to now) but it seems to me that these days it's rare for a series author to also write stand alone stories. It also appears that Delirium is more of a dystopian where I would class Panic as a contemporary novel - again nice to see an author able to write in more than one genre.
If I had one criticism of Panic it is how the rest of the town seems fairly oblivious or indifferent to a game which places the contestants in constant and real danger. The collection of the pot is also hard to swallow. (all students in the high school pay $1 every school day into the pot - no exceptions, collection will be made.) To Oliver's credit though, she spends very little time on this, preferring instead to immerse you in the competition so you really don't care too much about the discrepancies. 
In short, Panic is the best YA (not including the CBC short list) I've read since the Hunger Games. (and while we're on the Hunger Games, I have heard comparisons between it and Panic. I don't understand why. Apart from the game aspect, completely different!)