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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.
What’s It About?
Bargained away at birth by her father Nyx was promised to the evil ruler of her kingdom, The Gentle Lord, as is his future wife when she came of age. Raised to believe she is the only hope for the freedom of her people, Nyx knows that saving her kingdom means sacrificing herself. Despite this she resents her family – the father who sold her freedom, the little sister who is favoured, and an aunt engaged in a secret affair with her dead sisters husband.
On the day of her wedding Nyx leaves the only home she’s known to live with a man she’s never met, with the sole purpose to seduce and then destroy him. Only she soon discovers there’s more to The Dark Lord than she could have ever imagined. Desperate to free her people yet drawn to a man she’s supposed to despise Nyx must choose between her kingdom or her own happiness.
Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge’s first book, is an adaptation of the classic Beauty and the Beast mixed with Greek mythology. Which sounds both intriguing and exciting. However it fails to hit the mark. Though an interesting take on the Beauty and the Beast story it’s more inspired by the tale as opposed to a straight adaptation. Though there are elements reminiscent of the classic tale – a beautiful woman imprisoned by a “monster” who names her mistress of his home, an enchanted castle, a heroine who believes her jailer to also be imprisoning a handsome woeful prince. In Hodge’s version the monster is not covered in fur, in fact his description is reminiscent of the Disney film’s main antagonist Gaston. But likeable. Which is probably the saving grace for this book.
It’s not that Cruel Beauty is terrible, because it’s not. It’s a quick, easy read that is relatively entertaining, it just lacks substance. The characters are there but almost caricatures of what they could have been. Main character Nyx lacks all of the charm and, well seemingly inner beauty that Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle was overflowing with. Her father, sister and stepmother come off as nothing more than stock characters, with Nyx’s sister Astraia falling into the cliché of “not so innocent-innocent.”
Interestingly enough the most exciting character is the bad guy – Ignifex – who really doesn’t seem all that bad. He offers an in-depth explanation as to why he does what he does, proves that the bad that befalls those who make deals with him would’ve happened regardless of role in the matter yet despite this explanation Nyx still finds a way to condescend and judge him.
Ignifex is complex, showing a vulnerability that you wouldn’t expect in a books antagonist. He is by far the best developed character in the story – his back story was more interesting than the actual story at hand.
Further adding to the mediocrity of Cruel Beauty is Hodge’s writing which, at times, is reaching. She fluctuates between modern, every day language and an attempt to cast her characters in a medieval type setting by use of flowery, purple language, which isn’t always a bad thing but in this case, it definitely is. It’s jarring, and, well, a little lame. There’s also an attempt at achieving a certain poeticism in her prose. Rather than elevating the quality of the writing it only helps to further limit it.
The book is also excessively long. You get to a point that you think is the ending, but it turns out it most definitely is not. The false ending doesn’t work and the real ending is a let down because after everything there’s still no promise of a happy ending. It’s really unsatisfying. Some stories are not meant to have a happy ending but it feels like the story breaks with convention just to be different, not because it’s what’s right for the story.
Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge’s first foray into YA fantasy though inspired by Beauty and the Beast fails to compete with the classic tale. 2/5