Throwback Thursday: Panic by Lauren Oliver (2014)

In honor of the new Amazon Prime series based on this book…

High school graduates in Carp, New York have an unusual tradition.  Each summer the recently matriculated seniors have the opportunity to participate in a Fear Factor style “game” in which the winner (and there can be only one) takes home a pot of cash collected from students throughout the year.  The game is run by judges selected secretly, who are also paid highly from the pot.  But Panic is not all fun and eating gross stuff.  Dangerous challenges are the norm and unlike Fear Factor, there are no harnesses or ambulances standing by in case of an emergency;  more than one person has met his end during the yearly festivities.  Heather, Dodge, Bishop, and Nathalie are all involved in this year’s Panic for various reasons.  Dodge is playing for revenge—his sister is paralyzed from a car crash during the final round (named “Joust”) of Panic.  Nathalie and Heather want to get out of Carp, and Bishop wants to keep Heather from getting hurt.  As teens are eliminated, the challenges escalate in the run up to the Joust.  Meanwhile, Heather’s home life with her drug addicted mother is falling apart.  Who will win?  Will our heroine survive?  Will she finally realize that she is in love with Bishop?  For the answers to these and other questions, read Panic.

This title will work for fans of reality TV or realistic fiction.  The main characters are flawed, but sympathetic, and there is the suspense of the game to keep the reader turning or swiping pages.  I would not recommend this to students under grade 9, due to subject matter.  The novel is very entertaining and there is some character growth.  Mostly, the adults are absent, but there are actually some nice, caring ones sort of on the periphery of the story.  This would make an interesting discussion for a teen reading group.  Several themes would bear talking about:  reality shows and what they have done/are doing to society; what people are willing to do (have always been—150 years ago teens might have been involved in a duel) for the sake of money and/or respect;  what substance abuse does to families—what are some appropriate responses if you suspect someone needs help;  what does it mean to love someone—is it a “feeling”  or is it an action?  I could go on, but you get it.

Published by Robin Henry

Independent Scholar and Book Coach specializing in Historical Fiction and Literary Fan Fiction.

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