I received an advance reader's edition of Panic at no cost through the Amazon Vine program. I received no other compensation for this review, which represents my own honest opinion.
Panic is a contemporary young adult novel with a realistic plot and characters. It takes place in the small town of Carp, New York. The high school seniors in Carp play a game over the summer called Panic; the winner takes a pot of somewhere around $50,000. To many in the economically depressed town, the money represents the only chance they'll ever have to live better lives than their parents.
Dodge Mason comes from a similar background. He never knew his father, a Dominican roofer. His lighter-complexioned half sister Dayna played Panic when she was a senior, and in the final round she was in a car accident and lost the use of her legs. Their mom can't afford the most advanced medical treatment for her, so chances are she'll never walk again.
Dayna had been competing against Luke Hanahran when she was injured. When it's Dodge's turn to compete, Luke's brother Ray is also a contestant in Panic. Dodge intends to get revenge for Dayna - that's his main motivation for playing the game.
Along with Dodge and Heather, Heather's best friend Natalie (Nat) Velez is a competitor. Nat doesn't have a very strong stomach for dangerous activities, but she wants to win the money to further her dream of being an actress in L.A.
Panic is kept secret from the town's adults, with ever-changing rules, locations, and judges. None of the players know who the judges are.
I've been wanting to read the first book in Lauren Oliver's Delirium trilogy, which is also called Delirium, for quite a while now. After reading Panic, I'm not so sure I want to read it anymore. I just haven't fallen in love with Oliver's writing the way I have, say, Veronica Roth's. I thought Panic was interesting, but not great. There are moments of mild suspense when the characters seem to be in great danger, but very few consequences actually happen to the four main characters. The suspense is kind of a tease.
I hoped this would be more of a "what if real kids had their own version of The Hunger Games" kind of thing, but it was even more realistic than even that - which I didn't love. I knew going into this reading that it wasn't any kind of dystopian or fantasy novel, but it turns out I simply like the speculative genres of young adult books more than the more realistic kind.
This is the second stand-alone Lauren Oliver book I've read. The first was her middle grade fantasy novel The Spindlers. I thought that was just okay, too.
But if you like realistic YA fiction about what kind of trouble bored kids with very little to lose could get into, you may very well enjoy this book.