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Lauren Oliver has written quite a bit since bursting on the young adult scene in 2010 with Before I Fall a book with a small twist of fantasy that was interesting and well written enough that it made me eager to read her dystopian trilogy Delirium. I thoroughly enjoyed that series. After two middle-grade books, she has delivered Panic, a stand-alone that is grounded entirely in current-day reality.

In the rundown town of Carp, freshly-graduated high school students play a secretive “game” every summer in which they are challenged to scary stunts to see who can outlast the others and win the cash prize that all of them chip in for throughout their senior years. That big chunk of money is enough to motivate many to play because most would love to escape Carp. When you mix bored, restless teens with stupid stunts, all steeped in a summer brew that largely leaves out adult oversight, the result is dangerous and even deadly.

The main characters are mostly unhappy and living sad lives. One has a drug- and alcohol-abusing single mom who is barely there in body; one has an older sister who was seriously injured in a previous Panic. The book does finally allow its characters some growth and grace; I just disliked being along for the depressing ride.

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Star Count 3/5
Format Hard
Page Count 416 pages
Publisher HarperCollins
Publish Date 2014-Mar-04
ISBN 9780062014559 Buy this Book
Issue March 2014
Category Young Adult


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