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This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
Panic is a dangerous game played by the graduated seniors of Carp High School. The game consists of challenges that you must bet by whatever rules the judges set or accept failure and no longer compete. The challenges can be anything from crossing a jumping off a cliff into the waters below to playing Russian roulette. Heather never intended to play, but when the first day of the challenge comes and she finds herself depressed about where her life is going, she joins in a mad rush of spontaneity. Now she must continue, for the winning money, an amount north of $50,000. Dodge is playing for completely different reasons and he won't stop until he's won and gained the revenge he's been seeking for a year. But with the new alliances between Dodge, Heather, and Heather's bestie (and Dodge's crush) Natalie, they discover a few things and the odds of winning is in their favor, if they can keep the courage to continue playing.
The only thing I can definitely tell about the characters is that I liked Bishop. Not as in, swooning in excitement, but he was the only character I really liked all the way through the novel. Heather I liked most of the time, but I didn't love. There were times when I could truly sympathize with her plight, having to deal with her druggie mother with no father to speak of couldn't have been easy. But she makes some dumb moves.****SPOILER****One of which leads to a tiger being shot to death which didn't make me happy. I am an animal lover so animal deaths are a big no-no for me.****END SPOILER**** I didn't really like Natalie or Dodge at all. Natalie was the typical flighty best friend, with big aspirations of being an actress, but no skills or training to really pursue that career. Not to mention the whole using Dodge to possibly gain winning money. Dodge was too set on revenge. I understand his need for it, but it won't solve anything. It won't fix his problem, so what's the point?
I'm not sure how I feel about this book as a whole. It was a little difficult to read for me because it couldn't hold my interest completely. I could only read a few chapters at a time before my brain demanded I do something else. I don't know if that is because I didn't like the way it was written, it didn't interest me, or if it was just too much information to take in for a single sitting. I really didn't believe it was the writing because I really enjoyed Oliver's rather blunt voice. Either way, it took me nearly a week to read this, but somehow managed to end on a happy note. I couldn't stop smiling after I finished it because it ends happily.
The ending, you see, was what worried me the most about this novel. I have read Oliver's Before I Fall and HATED the ending. I like happy endings where everyone gets to live happily ever after with the majority of their goals either achieved or extremely possible. Before I Fall does not end well. I haven't read the Delirium series yet, but I've heard bad things about the ending there too. This had me on edge for the entire novel. I just knew someone was going to die, probably Heather, and things would resolve well for most everyone else. I am happy to say that I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong wrong wrong. This ends hopefully. All the characters are alive and striving to achieve their goals.
This is a dark, disturbing tale of teens pushing themselves over the limit to win enough money to get your life started. What teen doesn't need an large amount of money to pay for college or start a life? Had I gotten that much money at that age, I probably would have went straight to college or put a down-payment on a house, depending on how I felt. Some of the challenges laid before the contenders were down-right terrifying to read about, much less the fear of actually having to perform them. I don't know if I would have been able to complete some of those things. Life may be greatly improved by money, but the idea of having to put a gun to my head and pull the trigger without knowing if the bullet was in the chamber or not is more than I could have handled.
Oliver really pushes the envelope here, leaving us with dark questions about how far we'd go to win a rather large sum of cash. There isn't an ounce of humor hidden anywhere within these pages, just the raw terror of trying to figure out how you are going to make it through the next challenge. If you are looking for something completely different than you've read, something that will keep you on your toes and leave you thinking, this is for you!
****Thank you to Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****