Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver (Audiobook Review)

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Source: Purchased (ebook)
Publication date: March 4, 2014

I love the idea of Panic: high school graduates competing in an underground game for money. The money is collected from each student through the four years of high school and, upon graduation, the students have the chance to compete in Panic. Competing is optional, but paying into the pot is not. By graduation it’s serious money: $67,000. That’s more than enough for the winner to get out of Carp and go somewhere, anywhere else.

Carp is a small town in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. Mos of its residents are stuck there for financial reasons. Jobs are scarce and don’t pay very well. The paper factory closed years ago, forcing people into unemployment and poverty. Heather lives with her sister and their drugged-out mother and doesn’t even plan to compete in Panic until the night it begins, after she finds out her boyfriend has cheated on her. She joins her best friend Nat on the ridge at the top of the quarry, where the participants are to jump into the water waiting forty feet below to kick off the competition.

Dodge and his sister have spent their childhoods moving from town to town with their mother, who’s always chasing after one man or another. Dodge’s sister Dayna has been in a wheelchair for two years, ever since an accident in the final round of Panic went wrong when SHE was playing it. That’s pretty bad, but Dayna actually got off lucky. Three people have died because of Panic — four if you count a former winner who killed himself after blowing all his winnings in Vegas.

My biggest problem with Panic is its characters. Not a single one of them is interesting in any way. I can’t relate to them (I feel fortunate for that) and although I feel sorry for some of them being stuck in some pretty bad circumstances regarding their home lives, I don’t really care whether they can overcome those difficulties and get out of Carp. That sounds bad, but they’re fictional so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

The tasks in Panic are dangerous and thrilling, and they’re my favorite part of the book. I just wish there were better characters to root for. It would be nice to care whether a character lived or died or even successfully completed a task to continue on in the game. With the focus being on the game, the romances are kind of an afterthought, and like the characters, uncompelling. I guess it’s difficult to make relationships between boring characters seem interesting. At least the sibling relationships are stronger than the romantic ones. Heather and Dodge both go to great lengths for their sisters. Dayna doesn’t really need Dodge’s brand of help, but that’s beside the point. He cares.

The audiobook is narrated by Sarah Drew, who TV viewers might know as April on Grey’s Anatomy or Hannah on Everwood. I’m also familiar with her as the narrator for the audiobooks for Oliver’s Delirium trilogy. I’m biased because I’m always glad to hear a familiar voice narrating an audiobook, but I think she does a good job. She’s stronger with the female voices than male, which is pretty common among female narrators.

3 stars



  1. I felt the same way about the characters. I thought that they, mostly the adults, felt like caricatures. And I also did not get that sense of “I really hope so-and-so doesn’t die/get hurt/etc!” I didn’t really care if any of them lived or died.

  2. Nice review Jenna. I liked the concept too but I agree, not all the characters are that compelling. I did like Heather a bit, Dodge not so much. And I agree, the game aspects were the best part. The part where they had to break into the crazy old guy’s place out on some deserted road was probably my favorite challenge. I liked it generally but did think it got pretty unrealistic by the end.
    Greg recently posted…Bookstore Spotlight: Brilliant BooksMy Profile

  3. i’ve read a few reviews about this book and they all said something about not being able to relate to the characters. i’m reluctant to pick this book up because of all the lukewarm reviews… i feel that i’m going to feel the same way as you and the other readers.
    michelle recently posted…Weekly Wrap-up + New BooksMy Profile

    • I wish the characters had been better, because I really do like the concept. I read some reviews on Goodreads where people were complaining about that, but teenagers do stupid things all the time for a lot less (or no) money. Plus there’s the small town angle. There really isn’t anything to do in Carp.
      Jenna recently posted…Weekly Rewind: July 20-26My Profile

  4. Great review! I had been really curious about this one – but I think I may pass now. Even though it sounds exciting, I’m really a character driven reader and these characters clearly weren’t doing it for you. Too bad, but good to know.
    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted…You Asked and LitRate is ListeningMy Profile


  1. […] @ Rather Be Reading YA reviewed Panic by Lauren Oliver. This is a book I’ve been really curious about, but on the fence. Jenna’s review helped […]