Aly's Review of Panic by Lauren Oliver
Disclaimer: This review first appeared on my Goodreads profile.
When I first heard the Lauren Oliver was releasing a new book, I was ecstatic. Panic is described as: "an extraordinary novel of fear, friendship, courage, and hope."
It takes place in Carp, a small town of 12,000 inhabitants and the game began because "it was summer, and there was nothing else to do."
Heather had always believed the game was stupid and had never believed she would take part. Until her boyfriend cheats on her, dumps her and she is suddenly faced with the realisation that Panic might very well be her ticket out.
And the stakes are higher than ever: $67,000.
The game is supposed to be challenging in every way: physically and emotionally. It's meant to put you right up close and personal with your fears and you're meant to overcome those fears and, in the end, win.
However, although it was beautifully written, it was slow paced, quite boring and nothing actually happened.
So at the moment, my feelings can be summed up like this:
I was expecting a rushy, fast paced, can't-put-down book that fuelled me as much as it supposedly did the characters, but instead I was left holding a book with quotes like this:
“Now it looked like a person whose soul had been sucked out through his asshole.”
"He [Dodge] sprayed on a bit of this man’s body-spray thing his mom had gotten for free at Walmart, feeling like a douche, but thinking it was better to feel like a douche than to smell like an asshole."
And my personal favourite:
"Bishop, her best friend, the boy who used to dare her to eat her scabs and then almost throw up when she did."
I mean, I know it's meant to be realistic, and I guess it's hard to find the right words or tone when you're writing from a guy's POV, but seriously Oliver, what the fuck were you thinking? Half these mental images have scarred me for life. Ugh.
The challenges were not enticing in the slightest. They were boring and poorly thought through. At one point, they have to spend as much time as possible in a house that is supposedly haunted and nothing happens! (Apart from a big ass fire, but I saw that one from a mile away, Christ.)
I have to admit, at first I thought it was going to be a modernised versionof the Hunger Games, and who wouldn't? A game where people died or badly injured, only one winner, a shocking prize at the end? Who wouldn't make that comparison? But as the book wore on, I realised it was worse than that. It was like Oliver had grabbed a few school pranks and turned them into big-ass challenges.
God, what a bitch. I'm so SICK and TIRED of author's trying to make you feel sorry for every fucking character you read about. Heather is poor, her mother is an alcoholic/druggie and she has to take care of her eleven year old sister. Winning Panic would mean being able to leave with Lily and never come back.
Big fucking deal. I know people with worse upbringings than that who don't whine, bitch and moan at every given moment. Honestly, I wish at least ONE author out there wrote about a believable character, with a normal childhood. It's not that hard!
The fact that we're made to feel sorry for Heather straight away at the beginning of the book just made me not like her. She joined Panic because her boyfriend dumped her whining ass so she thought she had nothing left to lose. Fair enough.
But then she complains about the game! She can't make her mind up and for an eighteen year old, she's not very bright. (May I just add that there wasn't any instalove between her and Bishop but the whole, "OMG I love him and always loved him" was awful?)
So yeah, I didn't like Heather much. Like, at all.
You always get it in novels these days. Natalie is Heather's beautiful best friend with the perfect life and is aspiring to be an actress/model. She joins panic so with the jackpot she can run off to LA and become famous. In the meantime, she's stringing Dodge along and screwing some freaky model scout she picked up at the mall.
Out of everyone, I would've been more interested in reading about Nat. Although she's a selfish, conniving little girl, I felt more sympathy towards her than I did Heather. Even though she's terrified about pretty much everything:
She was deathly afraid of dogs, she had told him. Also: ladders, heights, darkness, and the feeling you get in the middle of the night when you check your phone and see no one has texted.
Sorry, but that last bit is just stupid.
Dodge. Dodge is a pretty weird, funny character. He joined Panic as a form of revenge. A year or so previously, a guy rigged his sister's car in the last round of Joust and she lost her legs. So Dodge (pushed by his sister, by the way) joins Panic:
Dodge scrolled down and reread the email he had sent a week earlier.
"The bets are in. The game is on.
I’ll make you a trade:
A sister’s legs for a brother’s life."
He's willing to kill to win the game, as revenge for his sister. That's extreme and stupid and I thought it wasn't needed at all. If he'd joined the game so he could use the money to pay for his sister's physiotherapy and help her get better, than I would've liked that a lot more.
Dodge also has a weird thing about comparing people to food:
""She [Nat] looked like a cookie that had been iced for Christmas."
Oh, and he also has a nice habit of complimenting-whilst-insulting someone by thinking up random shit like:
"She'd [Heather] always been pretty, Dodge thought - sturdy looking and dependable, like someone in an advertisement about deodorant."
The only character I thoroughly enjoyed reading about was Bishop:
He's down to Earth, hates Panic and loves his friends a lot. Right at the end, he decides Heather is a whining bitch and can't stand it any longer, and says the first admirable sentence in the whole book:
“You know what your problem is? You want everything to be shitty. You have a sister who loves you. Friends who love you. I love you, Heather.”
Apart from the last sentence (mostly because I didn't give a shit whether he did or didn't) everything he said was true. So she had a shitty life. So do millions of other people.
So, to conclude, I would just like to say that this review was written as it came. I didn't quite think it through, but these are my feelings towards the book. If Oliver had thought some of the challenges through, made them scarier or something, and gave her MC's a little more emotional depth or at least created them in a way I would actually LIKE them, then maybe the rating would be higher.
For now though, this is how I feel. I may read it again at some point in the future and change my mind or I might never touch this book again.