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
The Cover Contessa's Review:
I want to thank Harper Teen for approving me for this eARC through Edelweiss to read and give an honest review. Receiving this book for free has in now way altered or influenced my opinion or review.
If anyone knows me, they are well aware of how much I love Lauren Oliver and her writing. It's lyrical and poetic and very smooth, easily fitting together like a puzzle. She does not waiver in her ability to convey her messages in her books or in her ability to draw the reader in. So, given the chance to read something by her, I jump at it. I was particularly excited to read this book as I loved Oliver's Before I Fall (a contemporary read that pulled me in despite the fact that I am not really much of a contemporary reader; although it did have some time shift elements in it, but it was the story line and characters that really got me). So, I figured another contemporary read by her would suit me well. Unfortunately, this book missed it mark with me and it makes me sad to say so. I usually fly through Oliver books, this book took me almost two months to read!
I will say that the cover of this book certainly drew me right in. It's simple and really conveys a bit of the "panic" we are suppose to feel throughout the book. So, just based on the cover I would certainly pick this book up to read it!
Now let's talk a bit about the characters. Oliver chose to write this book in third person omniscient with differing points of view. And, while I found this an interesting way to write, I actually felt a major disconnect with the characters because of it. I had a hard time really believing in her characters, which has happened before for me in her last book of her Delirium series. I felt like these characters could have had more dimension to them, that they remained rather flat and predictable throughout the book. They were unremarkable and unmemorable.
Take Heather, for instance. I had a bit of a connection with her. I could feel her need to break free of where she lived, to get out and start a different life, with different people and a better outlook. But she was SO negative. It didn't seem to matter if good happened to her, she always looked at the negative of EVERYTHING! It grated on my nerves. I just did not like her as a person. She wanted to have closeness with people, but she was closed off, and this made it hard for me to connect with her. However, I can totally see where Oliver was going with her character. The need for her to distance herself lest she get hurt.
Then there's Dodge. I really liked him. I felt an instant connect with his character. He was open and honest and there was never any bull about who he was or what he wanted. He was in it for one reason, revenge, and there was never any wavering for him when it came to what he wanted. And he was very open about his feelings. I felt his love, fear, pain; I felt it all.
Bishop, he was an interesting addition to the circle. Heather's best friend forever, he also kept a bit of a distance. Even from Heather, who was always there for him, he kept back. BUT, when you get towards the end of the book and realize his connection with Panic, you totally understand why he may have drawn back from anyone and everyone around him.
Oliver comes up with an interesting concept of teens competing in a all in, balls out series of challenges leading to a large monetary gain. And since this small town seems to be filled with teens who don't have a lot of money, you can imagine that they all want to try and win. So I expected this book to be packed with the action of the Panic challenges, for them to be heart stopping and thrilling. But they just weren't. They were a bit predictable and there was way too much down time between each challenge. I can see where Oliver was trying to make us understand the characters better during these times, but it just didn't work for me.
Oliver did do a great job of pulling the reader into the world of Carp. I grew up in the city, so I know nothing of small town living. However, I went to camp right in the area where this book takes place, so I understand enough to know what the surroundings were like and how desolate and detached such a place can be. How run down and small it looks when you travel through. I felt an immediate understanding of the town. This setting gave a great tone to the book and set the over all feeling for the characters and their need to escape such a boxed in place. And Oliver's ability of description really helps you see each and every event she plots through the whole book.
I think where this fell short for me was pacing and plot. I felt the characters didn't really develop well, even in those down times when there was no Panic challenge. I felt like Oliver could have done so much more with their relationships and their overall realism. The plot was rather predictable. I could see every outcome of every Panic challenge, and that truly bothered me. I want to be wowed with things when I read a book, there was no wow moment for me. I can say that about 75% through the book it picked up a bit and then ran towards the end. But who wants to wait until 3/4 of the way through a book for it to get interesting.
Overall I just felt like I had to pull myself through this book. It didn't hold my interest enough until the very end. I really wanted to like it more. The story line could have been so much more interesting. And, while I give this a 3 because I think others will probably enjoy it more than I did, it's truly because I like the idea of the story and Oliver's writing that it doesn't get less. I didn't completely dislike it, but it didn't grab me as I hoped it would to make it truly amazing.Lauren Oliver comes from a family of writers and so has always (mistakenly) believed that spending hours in front of the computer every day, mulling over the difference between “chortling” and “chuckling,” is normal. She has always been an avid reader.
She attended the University of Chicago, where she continued to be as impractical as possible by majoring in philosophy and literature. After college, she attended the MFA program at NYU and worked briefly as the world’s worst editorial assistant, and only marginally better assistant editor, at a major publishing house in New York. Her major career contributions during this time were flouting the corporate dress code at every possible turn and repeatedly breaking the printer. Before I Fall is her first published novel.
She is deeply grateful for the chance to continue writing, as she has never been particularly good at anything else