Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

"That's what Panic is all about: no fear."

In the small, poor town of Carp, New York, Panic has been played because there is really nothing else to do in the summer. Everyone at the high school pays into the pot, one dollar for every day that school is in session. Those who don't participate receive reminders that start gentle but can end quite persuasive. Only seniors are eligible to play. The day after graduation is when those wishing to join the game, making their intentions clear by taking part in the Opening Jump. After the final challenge, only one winner takes the final pot. Two judges, who remain a secret, plan the games, issue the challenges and award and deduct points. The unexpected nature of Panic is what draws the participants in and weeds them out. After the judges receive their payment, the winner gets the pot, usually amounting to just over $50,000 dollars. In the seven years of the game, only three people have died. Four, if you count the year the winner shot himself after losing everything in Vegas.

This year, the pot is $67,000 dollars. The rules are explained but they are the same every year. There will be six events throughout the summer. Eliminations are made after each round. For those who make it to the halfway point, each challenge will be individualized. Heather Nill is just at the opening jump of Panic to cheer on her friend, Natalie Velez. She is surprised at the amount of the pot but her plans include her boyfriend, Matthew Hepley. She keeps looking for him before the game starts and hasn't received a call or text from him. Just as the first contestant jumps, Heather spies Matt. She starts making her way towards him, but soon loses sight of him. When she finally finds him again, she sees that he is not alone. In fact, he is kissing Delaney O'Brien. She goes to the edge of the cliff where Natalie is about to jump. Nat wants to know why Heather is there and seems a bit angry that Heather is joining the game. Before she can talk herself out of it, Heather announces her name and jumps off of the cliff.

Natalie forgives Heather for joining in Panic after a few days and Heather wonders what she was thinking. Her friend, Bishop Marks, wishes she hadn't, but he is betting on her to win. The next week, the second challenge is held. Riding with Bishop and Nat to the twin water towers, the challenge is to cross a wooden plank propped between them. Heather is scared, but she makes it across. The guy behind her completes the walk but doesn't climb down. The next guy is crossing when he loses his balance. The crowd gasps but he is able to catch himself. When both guys are on the ground, a fight breaks out between the two of them. The guy who almost fell causes the first of throwing something at him. Soon, Heather and Nat are pulled apart and Nat falls into the mud. Someone steps on her ankle and she hears it crack. Heather is trying to help her up when the police arrives. Unable to find Bishop and their ride, Heather attempts to help Nat limp into hiding, but the girls are struggling. Suddenly, Dodge Mason gets on Nat's other side and helps her walk. He leads them into the woods and gets them into a maintenance shed. Heather immediately realizes that Dodge has a thing for Nat. It figures that all of the boys like the short, perky girls. While Dodge is out looking around, Heather tells Nat they should spilt the money if either of them win. Nat agrees. After a while, the coast is clear. All three walk to the road to catch the bus.

No one in Carp will cheer for a Dodge, no matter how far he goes. He wasn't in it for the popularity; he was in it to win. Dodge likes secrets. He even has two. First, he knows more about Panic than anyone else at the Opening Jump. Second, and the source of his power; "he wasn't afraid. He just didn't care." Dodge has no idea what his father's name is. He was the result of a brief encounter his mother had with a Dominican roofer in Miami. He, his mother and Dayna have moved around the country with her various boyfriends. He is out to win Panic; for Dayna and for revenge.

Dodge is surprised when Natalie shows up near his apartment the next day. Completely dishelmed, he quickly dresses and cleans up. He doesn't want to invite her in so that she will see Dayna. Nat's ankle is only sprained and she came by to thank him. Talking, Nat suggests that if either her or Dodge win, they could split the money. That way, they could help one another out. Agreeing, Nat reaches up slightly and kisses a much taller Dodge on both sides of his neck to seal the deal. Dodge immediately realizes that he is going to fall hard for Natalie.

What secrets is Dodge keeping? Who is Dayna and why doesn't he want Natalie to see her? Why is Dodge in Panic for Dayna? What is the real reason Heather joined Panic? Why did Natalie make the deal with Dodge after agreeing to do the same thing with Heather? Who are the Panic judges? Why did Natalie join Panic? Who has the biggest secret in Panic? And who will win it all?

Broken down by days and told in alternating viewpoints from Heather and Dodge, readers will be eagerly reading until the very end.

Visit Lauren Oliver’s website.

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