By Lauren Oliver
Expected publication March 4, 2014 by HarperCollins
Panic is a game - one played by seniors during the summer after they graduate. One that challenges them to do outrageous things, to prove themselves. One that has killed some of its players. This summer, Heather and Dodge will be playing - and it will change them forever.
I had really high hopes for this one. I've enjoyed Oliver's other books, though I still haven't read the final book in the Delirium series. This one also got plenty of early buzz, perhaps because it's her first YA since finishing the series. I saw a couple of people mentioning it on Twitter - that they'd read the ARC and really liked it. I was pleased to have access to the e-galley and read it eagerly. I was a bit disappointed.
What I like about this: contemporary realistic standalone. Yay! Not another fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian series. I am getting so worn out on series, y'all. In fact, I have started a spreadsheet to track the series in my library (since keeping current with them is a huge part of my job) and there are over 250 distinct series in the middle-grade section alone - that doesn't include early chapter books or teen series! That is a crazy high number! And there are new ones coming out everyday. So, I really liked the fact that this was a standalone title. I also appreciated that it's contemporary realistic fiction - yes, the idea of Panic might be a bit far-fetched, but it's not completely outside the realm of possibility. Just like the growth of series, there has also been an explosion of speculative fiction for young people, and it's nice to be reminded that there is more than that out there.
What else I liked: the alternating viewpoints, though, surprisingly, I found Heather the most interesting of the two main characters. I say surprisingly because, at first glance, it seems like Dodge has the more interesting story - in fact, Heather wasn't even planning on playing Panic when the book started. But I think this lead to more interesting character explorations throughout the course of the novel for Heather.
What I didn't like: predictable. Predictable. Predictable. I don't think anything about this really surprised me, except for maybe one aspect of the ending. Otherwise, everything that was supposed to be a major plot twist was, to me, incredibly obvious and unsurprising. Additionally, the writing felt a bit flat for me. I wanted it to be more suspenseful, more full of heightened emotions, than it actually felt to me.
All in all, an interesting read that I think will definitely appeal to teen readers, though perhaps a bit too predictable for discerning ones.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance readers copy, provided via Edelweiss.