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Author: Lauren Oliver
Date Published: March 4, 2014
Number of Pages: 408
What’s It About?
Each year in the dead-end town of Carp, NY, every student in the graduating class has the chance to enter Panic – a legendary, and dangerous game of luck and chance. Spurred by heartbreak and revenge Heather and Dodge enter the game. Every decision, every ounce of courage leads to new alliances, chances for romance and a shot in the dark at a way out of town.
My first introduction to Lauren Oliver came in the form of her Delirium trilogy, of which I only ever read (and only half of it) the first book in the series. To many the books are killer, to me they were just, well dull. I found the concept to be beyond reaching and I really couldn’t get down with lead character Lena who I felt was whiny and cowardly. Harsh I know. I’m saying all of this because I was really reluctant to pick up Oliver’s newest book Panic but I’m glad I did.
Panic is nothing at all like Delirium, a standalone book – the overall concept, a mysterious and dangerous game (with a big payout) held for the graduating high school class in small town New York builds to a crescendo in an intense and riveting manner.
Told from the dual perspectives of contestants Heather and Dodge, playing for their own independent reasons, the book is a surprisingly intense commentary on youth and the way in which desperation of all kinds can drive a person to do things they never thought themselves capable of.
The concept is enthralling – Oliver manages to capture your attention from the very beginning. As the game progresses and the stakes are raised you find yourself becoming more and more invested in the characters and desperate to know the outcome.
The dual narrative can at times come off a little gimmicky – for instance in Allegiant it was evident very early that the reason for the change in narrative style was because the end of the story couldn’t come from the character it had always come from. In Panic the dual narrative makes sense. It offers a great duality in reasoning for the various reasons these kids would put their lives in such danger for a cash prize. For many it’s seen as a way out of small town life for the story’s narrators it’s much more.
Heather is incredibly likeable. Suffering from heartbreak and a bad home life Panic is a way from her to step away from the stress of everyday life. It’s also a chance to provide a better life, away from her alcoholic/drug addicted mother, for her and her sister. As the story progresses Heather’s growth from wallflower to a confident, beautiful girl is striking yet organic.
At first Dodge comes off a little slimy – you kind of recoil at the thought of him, but his is a great example of character development and how wrong first impressions can be. Loyal to a fault Dodge is determined, pragmatic and clever. His relationships with his sister, Heather and Nat (Heather’s best friend) paint him as loving guy with a great deal of respect for the opposite sex.
The Minors (characters)
Nat – Heather’s best friend, Dodge’s love interest – I’m not going to lie here. I kind of hated her. She’s incredibly self-involved and without spoiling anything – um, I can’t actually finish that sentence without spoiling things. Needless to say the gif below best describes my feelings about her.
Heather’s other best friend, and the boy she’s obviously in love with but has yet to realize this fact (trust me I’m giving nothing away) is perfectly likeable but I will say his purpose in the story is fairly obvious – I have yet to determine if it was meant to be this way or if it’s just a weak link in the story. Whenever Bishop entered the scene I always found myself doing that twisty head thing that puppies do…:
Anne, Krista, Lily
All three women play a vital role in Heather’s life, Krista – her mother is a disappointment, forcing Heather to play the parent role. Lily, Heather’s little sister though very minor and not as developed as other characters gives Heather purpose. And Anne – well she’s really awesome. Best way to explain her.
There’s a reason people keep buying Oliver’s books, despite not being a fan of her earlier work there’s no denying she can write. In Panic she creates characters with meaning and reasoning. For every action there is a reaction, a reaction that continuously ups the ante. She also manages to create unique character voices. Both Heather and Dodge stand out so clearly as independent characters, yet when they’re brought together they mesh.
Oliver’s writing is also great for its intricacies. She adds in small details that provide so much for your imagination. The town of Carp is so beautifully illustrated by simple additives like Meth Row or as a friend pointed out Nat’s obvious OCD – which is never named but very evident.
The Elusive YA Standalone
What I think I particularly appreciate about Panic is that it’s a standalone – a concept that seems incredibly unique in the current world of YA overrun with dystopian trilogies. It’s nice to read a book and know that the end is really the end. There’s something to be said for an author who tells the story in one go, sometimes it just makes the story so much more rich.
The Final Judgement
Panic is a great story. It’s unique, engrossing and filled with interesting plot twists, strong and likeable characters. It’s the perfect concoction of mystery, suspense, romance and adventure. Throw in a little coming of age and a little revenge it kind of has a bit of something for everyone. If you’re looking for a tightly woven tale that builds to an ultimately explosive crescendo, you should probably pick up a copy. 4.5/5
It’s that time again – Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, this week: Top Ten Books on My Spring 2014 TBR (to be read) list.
10. Side Effects May Vary, Julie Murphy (March 18th, HarperCollins)
Alice finds out she’s dying of cancer, so she writes the most epic bucket list ever (with pay back a plenty included) and lives it out (revenge and all.) Then she learns she’s not actually dying. Chaos ensues.
9. (Don’t you) Forget About Me, Kate Karyus Quinn (Harper Teen, June 10)
If you’ve read Kate Karyus Quinn’s first novel Another Little Piece than you know she’s great when it comes to the whole fantasy/mystery thing. Don’t You Forget About Me revolves around a mysterious town where you never get sick and you live a long life. But there’s a price to be paid, one that comes every fourth year.
8. Dear Killer, Katherine Ewell (Katherine Tegen Books, April 1)
(From Goodreads) …a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe. Um – hell yeah.
7. Dream Boy, Madelyn Rosenberg (Sourcebooks Fire, July 1st 2014)
Definitely a case of the be careful what you wish fors, this mystery centers on a beautiful and mysterious boy who proves that dreams really do come true. But with this dream comes a nightmare or two.
6. Dorothy Must Die, Danielle Page (HarperTeen, April 1)
Imagine an Oz where the sweet, girl from Kansas who liberates the people from the clutches of the Wicked Witch of the West finds a way back to that magical land only to become the dictator she once defeated.
5. Love Letters to the Dead, Ava Dellaira (April 1st 2014, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
What starts off as a school assignment soon turns into an epistolary tale of first love, dysfunctional families and betrayal.
4. Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen (Harper, July 8)
Full disclosure – I’ve already read this, but I plan to re-read in celebration of its official release in July. This book is awesome, it’s kind of Game of Thrones meets Reign meets something entirely different.
3. We Were Liars, E. Lockhart (Delacorte, May 13)
There’s tons of buzz around this YA thriller – and here’s why (from Goodreads):
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
Need I say more?
2. City of Heavenly Fire, Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry, May 27)
The last book in Clare’s insanely addictive The Mortal Instruments series, this final chapter sees Clary, Jace and the gang face off against her sociopathic brother Sebastian and his army of evil nephilim. How cool is that?
1. Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor (Little, Brown & Company, April 8 )
Really is my number one shocking to anyone who reads this blog? I’m obsessed, OBSESSED with Laini Taylor’s beautiful, seductive, enthralling fantasy trilogy about love and war and everything in between. Will Karou and Akiva end up together (they’d better…) Will the Chimaera-Seraphim war finally come to an end? Will the renegade Stelian Seraphim save the day? I am equal parts excited and anxious, happy and sad – because really, when this series comes to end what will my life become?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish – I’ve been meaning to take part in it for quite some time now and it would appear today is the day for my first foray into the lovely land of weekly lists.
Picking my all time favourite anything book-wise is pretty difficult, picking my favourite YA books? Well that’s kind of a “Sophie’s Choice” for me. So I’ve decided to go with the books I keep going back to, some are relatively new reads, some not so much. But the top three are without a doubt my all time favourites. So, without further ado…
10. Graceling, Kristin Cashore
The first in author Kristin Cashore’s sort of trilogy (more like a companion piece and a sequel) despite being first published in 2008 I first read, or rather heard it last month. (The audiobook – full cast! was my first and was awesome.) After finishing the audiobook I decided to buy a copy of the physical book and read it. Which basically solidified my love for this epic fantasy romance. Heroine Katsa is kind of everything I’d like to be.
9. The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand, Gregory Galloway
Galloway’s Adam Strand is an unusual kid – plagued with the constant need to commit suicide, he is constantly killing himself, only to feel utter disappointment when he comes back to life, some 39 times. Perfectly dry, perfectly macabre The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand is unlike anything else in the YA canon.
8. Hey Nostradamus, Douglas Coupland
Arguably Coupland’s best book, this is the story of a fictional school shooting in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1988. Told from multiple first person narratives it is the perfect blend of themes like religion, sex, grief and adolescence.
7. His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman
Many know these books as the series about two kids who set out in essence to kill god – but it’s so much more. An in depth and intelligent commentary on life, organized religion, the afterlife and science, the books though controversial are, well, epic.
6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
You can mark this as one of the first books to break my heart. Chbosky’s Charlie is painstakingly tragic and poignant as the titular “wallflower”, this coming of age story should be read with tissues in hand. Perks also happens to be one of those rare books to make a seamless transition to film. The movie adaptation starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson is astounding, and totally worth watching.
5. The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton
Ponyboy. Darry. Sodapop. Greasers. Socs. Friendship. Family. Rivalry. This book has it all. Even more amazing despite originally being published in 1967 the book still holds up 47 years later.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
There are so many life lessons in Mockingbird – but what makes it so good is that it never feels preachy. Each lesson serves a purpose, and really when Atticus Finch is teaching you morals it’s hard not to listen.
3. The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp
I love this book. The story of loveable ne’er-do-well and teenage lush Sutter Keely pulls you in, takes you for a ride and blows your mind with its unconventional ending.
2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
This series is my current obsession, and though I dearly love Days of Blood and Starlight (the second book in the trilogy) series opener DOSAB is a book I go back to time and time again. With a love story that spans not just lifetimes but worlds, the book unfolds so beautifully and yet so unexpectedly. It’s a real gem. (28 days until Dreams of Gods and Monsters!)
There’s no denying I am definitely a JG fangirl – I have often wondered where he was when I was in high school and in desperate need of characters like Margot Roth Spiegelman, Quentin Jacobson, Lindsay Lee Wells, Alaska Young, Miles Halter and most importantly Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. Of his four books what makes TFIOS my favourite (and makes it top not only this list but the list of my favourite books) is the reality with which it is so deeply entrenched. Despite what some say, this is not an “issues” book, this is a love story. An honest, innocent, beautiful love story, one that doesn’t just draw you in but makes you invest in each character. Best of all you’ll laugh just as hard as you’ll cry.
“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
– John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
I know you’ve all seen it already, but allow me to provide an excuse to watch it again (for the twentieth time.)
Based on the book by Tim Tharp and starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley The Spectacular Now tells the story of lovable yet hopeless teenage lush Sutter Keely who would rather live in the now than deal with the future. After being dumped by his girlfriend Sutter befriends the timid Aimee Finecky (Woodley), as their relationship develops both Sutter and Aimee find themselves navigating a relationship neither was expecting.
A Sundance darling, this little indie film will blow your mind with its sheer perfection of the quintessential teen coming of age story. Book to film adaptations are sticky territory, book people can be, well, crazy…possessive…obsessive and are always ready to tear an adaptation apart. Navigating the thin line between artistic creativity and fan pleasing can’t be easy, but in the case of The Spectacular Now, director James Ponsoldt and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (the writers behind 500 Days of Summer and the highly anticipated adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars) totally deliver.
Myles Teller as Sutter Keely
Teller’s Sutter Keely is part Ferris Bueller/part Lucas (from Empire Records) and one hundred percent the Sutter Keely you can’t help but love from the book. As in the book the film version of Sutter maintains all of the depth, charm and vulnerability that make him such a great, full character. Teller’s portrayal is executed with the perfect amount of bravado and feigned immaturity necessary to make the peeling back of Sutter’s many layers that much more potent, especially when the powerless, sad, scared and angry boy is finally revealed. Something of Teller’s performance continually brings to mind James Dean in East of Eden (perhaps slightly less dramatic.) His impotence and fear, hidden behind his cup of whiskey are all the more compelling when you realize how high the stakes become (specifically as his “non-relationship with Aimee matures.)
On a purely superficial note I think when I read the book I imagined Sutter as being unbelievably good looking – now I’m not saying Teller’s a dogface or anything because he’s not – it’s just in my head part of why Sutter could get away with a lot of his behaviour was because he was so good looking people kind of just overlooked his epic failing at life. Obviously this is something I may have projected onto the character myself and therefore has no bearing on Miles Teller’s portrayal. And in fact I really liked Teller as Sutter. He had the perfect mixture of bravado and sheepishness that embodies Sutter. He’s a good ol’ boy, always shaking everything off – I would think that it’s incredibly difficult to portray indifference or ignorance and Teller does it perfectly. Most importantly he’s likeable. The movie would not have worked if you hated Sutter and Myles Teller has so much charisma it would be impossible to hate him in this role.
Shailene Woodley – the face of YA film adaptations
Having not always been the most enthusiastic when it comes to Shailene Woodley (I can’t say I was overly excited when I heard she was cast as Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars) and I won’t lie, this is mostly because I can’t separate her from that God awful Secret Life of the American Teenager show (Oh Molly Ringwald, how could you stoop so low?) It’s quite possible that The Spectacular Now has changed my mind about her because she was quite possibly the best manifestation of Aimee Finecky I could imagine.
Amy’s not a nerd. She’s quiet and a little bashful, but she’s not a nerd. Her mother’s put so much on her that in a lot of ways she doesn’t have time to be a teenager. Which is why she jumps at Sutter’s taking such an active interest her. Also she’s a pleaser – hence the boozin’ and schmoozin’. Woodley picks up on these attributes and exemplifies them beautifully. She’s equal parts charming, goofy and heartbreaking. And even though this is Sutter’s show you can’t help but root for Amy. That comes down to great writing and great acting. Woodley delivers on her end for sure.
Direction and Writing
Like the book it’s based on the film version is wonderfully written, sharp, witty, charming (there’s that word again) and completely relatable. There’s a freshness to this film. The story feels real, honest and earnest without being saccharine. This should excite a lot of people because as I’ve already stated writers Weber and Neustadter wrote the screenplay for The Fault in Our Stars. Okay? Okay.
My only gripe with this film (and this is saying a lot, usually I find myself fighting the urge to eviscerate film adaptations of books, especially those of books I love, and if you’ve been following my blog then you know I love TSN (hmm, that acronym can definitely be misconstrued – I love The Spectacular Now. I’m fairly indifferent to The Sports Network.) I digress. My issue with the film, and it’s a doozy, is that they changed the ending. THEY CHANGED THE FREAKING ENDING. I’m sorry but that’s just sacrilege. Part of what makes the book so good is the ending.
The point was that in the end Sutter really is an addict. He’s an alcoholic, though he wants to change in the end living in the now is more advantageous because he doesn’t have to face the future. He doesn’t have to grow up. He can live in his own spectacular now. Not run off to whatever school Aimee decided to go to and try and make things work. That’s not who Sutter is!
Despite this obvious desecration of one of the best endings in a YA book ever, this movie is wonderful. If anything The Spectacular Now sets the bar pretty high for the new generation of teen films. What Ferris Bueller was to the ’80s, Rushmore was to the ’90s and Mean Girls was to the ’00s The Spectacular Now will be to the ’10s. Despite one minor (MAJOR) change, this is one of those rare movies that manages to elevate the original text – which was amazing to begin with – and bring something new, something more to the story. Really stop reading this review and just go watch it.
Check out the trailer below.