Friday, April 04, 2014


Panic is the name of a game played by high school seniors in heather's small town. The winner gets a pot that all seniors are bullied into contributing $1/day their last year of school, whether they want to or not. The game is extremely dangerous. It begins with participants leaping off a cliff into a quarry, and ends with a game of chicken in cars, though the years, players have been killed or maimed, but they keep playing the game because they feel like it's the only way to escape life in this nowhere town. Sounds a lot like the Hunger Games, right? Except it's not a dystopian future and the game's not mandatory. But it is an impoverished town with little to no options for young people to strive for, and Heather's even got a saintly younger sister she feels responsible for and an incompetent mother that can't care for either one of them.

 Heather falls into a job helping a local woman care for her chickens and farm animals and starts, for the first time, to trust an adult parental figure and experience a type of stability for the first time in her life. This woman improbably has two tigers on her farm, rescues from... somewhere. It brings to mind, naturally, that age-old saying by Chekov: If you introduce a tiger in the first act, it had better go off in the second act. 

I've read Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall previously. I'm not nuts about her writing style, I find it slightly unsophisticated, like a YA novel that is definitely intended for a young audience. Her heavy handed foreshadowing, the obvious conflicts of the love interest are just a little tiresome.

Stephen King recently announced that he was self-censoring his short story, Rage, because it seems to have influenced a number of real-world school shootings. The story will not be published in reprintings of the compilation. I found it interesting that that story came out while I was reading Panic, which explains how to make a car bomb, "easy as making salad dressing", and describes a game of Russian Roulette. I think Panic is unlikely to garner any more publicity than The Hunger Games, particularly because it's main audience is girls. Ultimately I wouldn't necessarily recommend Panic to mature readers but I can see it being appealing to younger readers.

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