Kerry Winfrey
Updated Mar 21, 2014 @ 9:14 am

In the town of Carp, there aren’t a ton of opportunities and poverty hangs heavy over everyone’s heads. Carp is sort of like the setting of a Bruce Springsteen song…specifically Born to Run, although Thunder Road also works, and, okay, probably any Bruce Springsteen song would fit. What I’m trying to say is that the people in Carp have the sort of hopelessness that often leads to recklessness. And that’s how Panic happens.

Just-graduated seniors in Carp all get the chance to take part in Panic, a game that awards $67,000 dollars to one lucky victor. Sounds great, right? Well, sort of. Panic is a game, but it ‘s a little more dangerous than Yahtzee. For starters, Yahtzee never injured or killed anyone (that I know of, anyway—I’m not a Yahtzee historian).

In Panic, contestants take part in increasingly risky and sometimes life-threatening challenges. We follow the alternating perspectives of two players, Heather and Dodge. Heather initially plays because of a broken heart, but she soon finds other reasons to stay in the game. Dodge is playing because of a grudge and a desire for revenge. I loved both characters, but I was especially fond of Heather. She’s such a badass, and not just because she’s almost fearless when it comes to Panic challenges. She rules because she cares about her sister so much that she’ll do anything to protect her.

I will freely admit that I’m probably the world’s biggest wimp, so I definitely would never play Panic. In fact, I wouldn’t even watch Panic. I’d rather be in the safety of my own home, $67,000 be damned, instead of risking my life. So, naturally, I was seriously freaked out while reading Panic. It isn’t that the book is scary–there aren’t ghosts or monsters or anything like that–but it is intense. Sometimes, I didn’t think I would be able to handle reading about one of the challenges because it was just TOO MUCH TO HANDLE. Lauren Oliver is basically the master of writing tight scenes full of tension and action.

If you love books with high stakes and tons of intensity, you’ll love Panic. And, although I didn’t mention it earlier, Panic also has some romance! Yes, it’s not the biggest part of the plot, but it was still enough to satisfy this romance addict. Go pick up a copy of Panic right now–I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did.


-I appreciated that Panic took place in a small town. As someone from a small town, I always think that there’s just not enough YA taking place outside the cities and subburbs. Of course, Panic wasn’t exactly a flattering depiction of small towns, but there was a lot of truth there. Anyone from a town that’s been decimated by the loss of manufacturing jobs will immediately understand the feelings in Panic.

-I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will tell you that there are A LOT OF ANIMALS in this book, which was a real highlight for me.

-After reading Panic, you’ll definitely want to hear more from Lauren Oliver, so be sure to check out her YouTube channel, where she answers fan questions about her books, her writing process and all sorts of other things. I think I’ve watched every single one of these videos, and they’re all great!

-If you love Panic, be sure to read Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, which I reviewed here.

What about you guys? Have you read Panic? How much did it FREAK YOU OUT? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.