The summary, 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.
I brought this book with me on vacation, and I was so glad I did. It is the absolute perfect book to read on an airplane, or anywhere where you’re trying to forget about your surroundings (I love traveling; I detest flying). You know how yesterday I was talking about tension? Well, this book has it in spades, from the very beginning:
The water was so cold it took Heather’s breath away as she fought past the kids crowding the beach and standing in the shallows, waving towels and homemade signs, cheering and calling up to the remaining jumpers.
She took a deep breath and went under. The sound of voices, of shouting and laughter, was immediately muted.
Only one voice stayed with her.
I didn’t mean for it to happen.
Those eyes; the long lashes, the mole under his right eyebrow.
There’s just something about her.
Something about her. Which meant: Nothing about you.
She’d been planning to tell him she loved him tonight.
The cold was thunderous, a buzzing rush through her body. Her denim shorts felt as though they’d been weighted with stones. Fortunately, years of braving the creek and racing the quarry with Bishop had made Heather Nill a strong swimmer.
The water was threaded with bodies, twisting and kicking, splashing, treading water–the jumpers, and the people who had joined their celebratory swim, sloshing into the quarry still clothed, carrying beer cans and joints. She could hear a distant rhythm, a faint drumming, and she let it move her through the water–without thught, without fear.
That’s what Panic was all about: no fear.
If that doesn’t make you want to keep reading, I don’t know what will.
Things I loved about this book:
1. The Protagonist Heather Nill is heartbreakingly real. A somewhat-misfit from a poor family with self-esteem issues–I could totally relate to her.
Funny how people could be around you for so many years and be so off the mark.
2. The Setting is so richly drawn. Small bumpkin town with not much for teenagers to do except drink and smoke and act stupid–I’ve been to these towns, and I could totally picture it in my head. Also that summer after high school is such a weird one–realizing the only life you’ve ever known is ending, and you’re both eager for it to end and at the same time, trying to hold onto it. I remember this feeling, and Oliver captures it so perfectly.
It struck her how sad it was that all of them–the kids standing here, her classmates and friends and even the people she’d hated–had grown up on top of one another like small animals in a too-small cage, and now would simply scatter. And that would be the end of that. Everything that had happened–those stupid dances and basement after-parties, football games, days of rain that lulled them all to sleep in math class, summer swimming at the creek and stealing sodas from the coolers and the back of the 7-Eleven, even now, this, Panic–would be sucked away into memory and vapor, as though it hadn’t even happened at all.
3. The Tension was on every single page. There’s the sexual tension, between a few different characters, that’s really well done. There’s the tension of trying to figure out what’s going to happen. Of figuring out what already happened–what people’s secrets are. Then there’s the tension of the actual physical danger these kids keep engaging in–Panic itself. The things they do are unbelievably stupid–and yet you understand why they’re doing it. You’re actually on their sides.
4. The Beautiful Sentences It’s Lauren Oliver, of course there’s going to be beautiful writing.
He felt a sudden wrench of grief, for the way time always goes forward, relentlessly. It was like floodwater; it left only clutter in its wake.
I give it a solid 8/10. The few things I didn’t like include the highly unlikable female best friend character, the somewhat predictable “big reveal”, and the same thing that I have a problem with in all of Oliver’s books: the ending. It felt far too easy. But all the same–you should read this book.
She knew that this day, this feeling, couldn’t last forever. Everything passed; that was partly why it was so beautiful. Things would get difficult again. But that was okay, too.
Image found here