Panic – Lauren Oliver

Panic_HC_JKT_des4.indd“Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do. Heather never thought she would compete, 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…”

Lauren Oliver is back… Any KCARAB fans will know that I love her books (I’ve reviewed Delirium, Pandemonium and Requiem very favourably) so when her new book dropped through my letterbox I was incredibly excited to start it. Oliver’s already set the bar very high – and she raises it even higher with Panic, her gripping new novel.

The story opens on 18th June (year unknown) at the ‘Opening Jump’. This event harks the beginning of ‘Panic’, a sinister game held annually in the dozy town of Carp. Open only to senior students at the local school, anyone who wants to enter the game has to Jump (quite literally, into a sea). Anyone can enter, but there can only be one winner. The lure of the prize – this year, $67,000 – is strong, but not without its risks; Panic causes lasting trauma, injuries – and fatalities, so entering is not a decision to be taking lightly.

The novel’s protagonist, Heather, hadn’t even planned on entering, but a break-up leads her to reverse her decision at the last minute, joining her best friend Natalie and school outcast Dodge in the competition, along with a group of other hopefuls. Everyone wants to win enough money to get out of Carp – but Dodge’s primary motive is to avenge the paralysis of his sister, Dayna, who was seriously injured in the final task of the last Panic and can no longer walk. All three of them are hungry to win… but will they even make it to the final round? The tasks, set by two anonymous judges, get increasingly harder, more twisted and menacing. As more and more contestants are disqualified and the stakes begin to rise, tension soars and friendships fracture. In a game like Panic, does anyone ever really emerge the victor..?

Words can’t express how much I loved this book. Whilst some might look at the blurb and dismiss this as a Hunger Games, what’s inside is a clever and gripping read and unmistakably the work of Lauren Oliver. She combines her flair for storytelling with original plot lines, piercing dialogue and such an evocative writing style that I genuinely felt chilled to the bone at times whilst reading this.

Lauren Oliver is back… and she’s done it again. A must-read for 2014.

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