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PANIC by Lauren Oliver is an exciting and thrilling story that focuses on friendship, first love and being fearless in dangerous situations. PANIC takes place in a poor and small town called Carp, NY, which is apparently in the middle of nowhere. It’s a town that most of the residents never end up leaving, because they can’t escape a life of poverty. However, one graduating senior from Carp does get the chance to leave --- but first they have to win a legendary game called Panic. 

No one knows who came up with the game, but there are many theories and rumors floating around about how it originated. The game is simple --- any graduating senior can enter to win a pool of money that they've been contributing their own cash into during the school year. Those who want to play Panic must participate in the Opening Jump the day after graduation. Then, all participants continue on throughout the summer and compete in various challenges. Two judges are chosen in secret to decide the challenges and determine the winners. After the game has ended, the winner merely has to split the pot of money with the judges. But here’s what makes Panic so difficult --- those who play have to complete dangerous and deadly tests to move onto the next round. 

I definitely recommend PANIC to readers who are interested in delving into a unique world where the stakes are incredibly high.


PANIC’s main characters are Heather, Nat, Bishop and Dodge. Heather and Nat are best friends, and they’re also good friends with Bishop. Although Dodge went to school with them, he has never really had any friends in Carp. Out of the main characters, Heather, Nat and Dodge all decide to compete in Panic. After all, how could they not at least try? Their graduating year, the amount of money given to the winner will be $67,000, which is definitely enough for someone to leave Carp behind. PANIC is shown from the point of view from both Heather and Dodge --- they each have interchanging chapters throughout the story. 

I really enjoyed how Oliver showed exactly why Heather, Nat and Dodge are so motivated to win Panic. They all have issues they’re trying to work through, and it made them come alive. Dodge feels the need to compete in Panic for his sister Dayna, who competed after she graduated and made it to the last challenge --- Joust. In Joust, the final two competitors have to drive separate cars towards each other and the first person to steer away from the path of destruction loses, while the other driver wins it all. Dayna lost when her car mysteriously stopped working, and now she can’t walk due to the crash that Dodge thinks was not an accident at all. Heather needs to win Panic in order to secure a better life for her and her younger sister, Lily. Heather’s mother is an alcoholic and an unfit parent and Heather would do anything to take her little sister away from her mother’s neglect. Nat feels the need to win Panic since she has anxiety and insecurity issues and she wants enough money to leave Carp in order to become an actress.

I definitely recommend PANIC to readers who are interested in delving into a unique world where the stakes are incredibly high. All of the characters that Oliver has created in this story are very real, and I found myself rooting for each of them at different points while I was reading. I liked how Oliver’s writing has the ability to even make a reader feel just how much pressure is on Heather, Nat, Bishop and Dodge. PANIC is a book you should really read if you’re in the mood for an exciting standalone novel with fierce and motivated characters.

Reviewed by Ashley Bressingham on April 9, 2014

by Lauren Oliver

  • Publication Date: March 4, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0062014552
  • ISBN-13: 9780062014559