Panic by Lauren Oliver

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Hodder & Stoughton, 2014. ISBN 9781444723038.
Teenage coming of age. Independence. Risk taking. Friendship. In a small town in the USA, the local teens take part in a competition to win a pot of money that will transform their lives. The risks required to win put their own lives at risk as they gamble with fear and the challenge of overcoming life-threatening scenarios created by their peers in a 'game' that has rules that challenge wisdom. The central characters of this book are at the threshold of decision making about their career paths, friendships and romance, but the 'Panic' - the name of the competition that should not exist, creates a tension filled segue into their future.
Lauren Oliver creates flawed and interesting characters that inspire empathy, even when you don't always like them. They are believable, probably because they are flawed, and their life stories are interesting, as is the setting in the obscure but dead-end American town. Because it hints at the angst and uncertainty of the teenager, and their desire to escape the trappings of the mundane and the damaged aspects of their lives, it will appeal to teen readers. Adults are portrayed in secondary roles, or as the reasons for wanting to escape.
This book has already been targeted as the basis for a teen film production. It will become another of the teen 'must-reads'. Not set in a dystopian world, but yet this book retains much of the appeal of The hunger games, Maze runner and the Divergent series. Expect to see young people reading this book. It contains very little adult perspective on the 'Panic', except for a few oblique references to opposition, perhaps reflecting teen independence and lack of frontal-lobe perspective on the world!
Carolyn Hull