Release date: March 4, 2014
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.
Okay, that was unexpected. In fact, I would warn everyone to leave your instincts when you pick up the book because Panic is a wild ride of excitement, dread and (excuse the pun) panic. It was beyond what I imagined it to be and just wow! The game is simple – a high-stakes game of dares carried out by willing participants, from the graduating class. The game isn’t too old, so not so much a tradition as something of a distraction for the townsfolk of Carp. But the game is very secretive, with two unknown judges and sudden challenges – challenges that always have a deadly twist in them. The participants are all in for the money (a huge sum) – except for Dodge, who has a whole other motive for getting in.
At the start, the story starts out quite innocuous. The game, though a bit dangerous is a little past-time and entertainment during the summer months. But as the story progresses, the mood shifts darker. The game is deadlier, with challenges that could turn fatal and there are casualties too. The narrative is in dual POV – Heather’s and Dodge’s – two people who are quite similar to each other. One was planning for it and the other was a spur-of-the-moment participant. They form an alliance to help each other out, but they certainly don’t put trust in each other. The secretive nature of the game keeps all the characters second-guessing each others motives and the effects of the game on their personalities and their friendships is actually the main focus of the story. In the plot, the game is the thing that challenges their nature, their principles, their beliefs. The author has constructed the characters such realistically – they aren’t idealistic or something, they aren’t perfect – they are just doing what they can to escape the things bogging them down. Are they a little bad? Yes, they have shades of gray. The lead characters, especially, come from broken homes, and are trying to find a place among the other seemingly normal and perfect people.
The best thing, though, about the book was that I could never guess the direction the story is taking. The storytelling was quite interesting, with the narrative shifting in a way to keep the atmosphere tense and some events were revealed in a retrospective manner. The mystery kept me anxious and my nails are back to stubs thanks to that. The pace, however, was a bit slow for me and coupled with the level of mystery, it was hard stopping myself from skipping paragraphs to see what happens next. It was a good thriller, with a lot of scary moments, and the ending was particularly heart-stopping. Overall, an extremely good standalone from Oliver, once again.
Received a review copy from Harper Collins through Edelweiss.