Reviews for Panic

Booklist Reviews 2013 December #2
Oliver brings the survivalist competition of the Hunger Games series to present day New York State, where newly graduated seniors can take part in an annual game called Panic. In a small town where factory closures laid off 40 percent of the population, students are understandably concerned about financial security, and Panic awards the ultimate winner a sizable cash jackpot gathered from mandatory contributions from all high-school students. Participants are judged on physically and mentally challenging dares that culminate in a game of chicken called The Joust. The game's genesis, organizers, and judges are carefully kept secrets, and participants work hard to keep the police in the dark, as dangerous stunts have resulted in deaths in years past. Told in alternating chapters by Heather and Dodge, two players with siblings to protect and avenge, Oliver's novel is a wholly believable and compulsively readable tale of friendship, loyalty, survival, and courage. Although loose ends are tied together a little too neatly, the depressing yet realistic picture of new high-school graduates facing a bleak future balances unlikely heroism and happy endings.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The Delirium trilogy books are New York Times and international best-sellers. Expect demand. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Fall
In a small upstate New York town, graduating seniors take part in the officially unsanctioned game of Panic. Heather, the daughter of an addict, joins the competition on a whim; Dodge enters determined to win revenge. Heather and Dodge are well-rounded characters who are preparing for a less-than-perfect future. A work of realistic fiction with sharp corners, dark places, and considerable humanity.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2014 #2
In the small upstate New York town of Carp, graduating seniors take part in the officially unsanctioned game of Panic. On June 18th, teens Heather and Dodge announce their participation by making the Jump. After the last trial -- Joust -- the Panic winner will take home a pot of $67,000, a small fortune in a town where forty percent of the adult population is on unemployment. Heather, the daughter of an addict, joins the competition on a whim; Dodge enters determined to win not the pot but revenge. As the summer progresses, the teens' personal lives shift and change while the Panic trials become increasingly dangerous. Though this is a work of straight realism, the book retains all the tension and excitement of Oliver's science fiction series Delirium (rev. 3/11, 3/12, 3/13). The writing is fluid and the story itself has a rawness that echoes both characters' state of mind and situation. Heather and Dodge are well-rounded characters, motivated by a number of external and internal forces, who are preparing for a less-than-perfect future. Heather has a strong but confused identity; Dodge is rough, gritty, and determined, with an overwhelming tenderness. A work with sharp corners, dark places, and considerable humanity. siân gaetan Copyright 2014 Horn Book Magazine.

Kirkus Reviews 2014 January #2
Oliver makes a white-knuckle return to realism that will have readers up until the wee hours. They'll be desperate to learn who will win—and even more importantly, who will survive—Panic, a secret game that pits player against player in mental and physical challenges designed to push them to the breaking point. Heather Nill never planned to play, but with a broken heart and nothing to lose, once she's in, nothing is going to keep her from walking away with the $67,000 prize. Desperate to get out of Carp, N.Y., and determined to protect her sister Lily, Heather puts her life on the line time and again for a shot at a brighter future. Dodge Mason is playing for revenge, and he knows exactly how he is going to get it. After years of planning, nothing, not even the promise of new love, is going to stand in his way. Dodge is going to use the game to right an unforgiveable wrong, even if it kills him. Set in a town so run-down the grit is practically palpable, the book makes suspension of disbelief easy. Readers will understand how the deliberately built characters would and could do just about anything for a shot at getting out. The only thing more terrifying than the game itself is not getting the chance to play it. (Thriller. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
Panic is when your drunk mom takes your earnings for vodka and cocaine. Panic is wondering if your sister will ever walk again. Panic is seeing your boyfriend show up at a party with another girl. Feeling stuck with her family and depressed over a break-up, Heather throws herself headlong (by diving off of a cliff) into the Carp (NY) high school senior class tradition, a deadly game called Panic. New-in-town Dodge also plays, seeking revenge on the family he feels is responsible for his sister's paralysis. Over the course of the summer, Heather, Dodge, and other competitors square off in increasingly dangerous feats of courage, with the most reckless winning enough money to start a new life. Best known for her dystopian "Delirium" series, Oliver returns to the realm of the (all too) real. With its trailer parks and "Meth row," Panic is one of three books reviewed here to consider the impact of a shrinking economic outlook on young people; it is easy to understand why Heather and her friends go to such lengths when the $67,000 prize money is four times the annual income of someone earning minimum wage in their state. Even more than the prize, these young people are seeking a hopeful future. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 December #3

Heather and Dodge live in Carp, N.Y., a down-on-its-heels town where graduating seniors can participate in a secret annual game called Panic. Everyone contributes to the pot, with winner take all when the game begins. Players have died in the past, and Dodge's older sister was paralyzed two years earlier; this year's prize is $67,000. This is a purported return to realistic fiction for Oliver following her popular Delirium books, and it's realistic in the way that Before I Fall was: in her setting and characters, if not the situations they face. The stakes of Panic are extraordinarily high; an early challenge has competitors crossing between two water towers on a narrow plank, and things only escalate. Oliver runs no risk of idealizing small-town life; Carp is stifling and impoverished, and her descriptions can be borderline disdainful (one character's mother has a "face like a pulpy fruit"; a gas station attendant's hair is "slicked to one side, like weeds strapped to his forehead"). Oliver brings a high-concept, high-stakes conceit to Main Street USA, and the result is as uncomfortable as it is thrilling. Ages 14-up. Agent: Stephen Barbara, Foundry Literary + Media. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2014 March

Gr 9 Up--There's not much to do in tiny Carp, New York, so a group of teenagers take it upon themselves to create their own excitement through Panic, a risky game with potentially deadly sets of challenges. Panic is all about facing fears, and this year's winner will take home a pot of $67,000. Both Heather and Dodge need to win for personal reasons, and they decide to form an alliance, one that will be threatened repeatedly throughout the game. The large cast of characters slowly reveals secrets, schemes, and fears that complicate the competition and its outcome as they participate in increasingly dangerous trials. Oliver maintains a high level of tension throughout, starting right in the middle of the action and relentlessly building momentum. The desperate and broken characters are willing to do just about anything to win, making it impossible to guess how the story will unfold. A mix of fear and determination permeate the writing, often manifesting in clipped, no-nonsense tones and a straightforward approach to unimaginable situations. The bleak setting, tenacious characters, and anxiety-filled atmosphere will draw readers right into this unique story. Oliver's powerful return to a contemporary realistic setting will find wide a readership with this fast-paced and captivating book.--Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN

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VOYA Reviews 2014 February
Carp, New York, a "poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere," has a long-standing tradition: Panic. Every summer, graduated high school seniors play the six-event survival contest, either as gamers or observers. There is only one winner and, after the judges get their cut, the winner gets the pot. This year the pot is $67,000. In this dead-end town, playing the game is the only way out. Progressively more dangerous contests eliminate all but the final three players: Heather, determined to shield her younger sister from their substance-abusing mother; Dodge, coldly planning revenge on the family of a previous Panic winner; and Ray, Dodge's unknowing target, focused only on winning. Oliver, author of Before I Fall (HarperCollins, 2010/VOYA April 2010) and the Delirium trilogy, sets the tone for the economic and emotional realities of her characters: "Now everything was over and done. It occurred to her that this was her life: vast and empty, like a coin dropping down a bottomless well." The third-person narrative alternates between Heather and Dodge. Character development is minimal but the sharply arcing plot moves the action forward, the tension of one contest catapulting readers to the next. The swift pace serves the broad sweep of the novel and glosses over any idiosyncrasies in plot or motive. Shifting alliances within the game and the conflicting emotions of the players intensify the heady rush of tempting fate. Readers seeking the known thrill of a familiar roller coaster will be happy with this ride.--Janice M. Del Negro 3Q 4P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.