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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lauren Oliver's Panic is about a dangerous game that teens play for money: They participate in a series of challenges, including walking on a small platform between two water towers and breaking into a man's house to steal objects; one girl even holds a gun to her head during a game of Russian roulette. There are fistfights and dangerous drives, and a man overdoses on drugs. Characters are hospitalized after being trapped during a fire. A teen girl has sex with a man who says he will help her become a model. There's also a lot of swearing, teen drinking, drugs, and some kissing. Ultimately, the main characters learn to be good friends to one another and to face their fears, take responsibility for their actions, and start building the futures they want.
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What's the story?
Life in Carp, N.Y., is pretty dead-end, which is why so many graduating high school seniors play Panic. The game of escalating -- and often life-risking -- dares finally finishes at summer's end when a lone winner takes the pot, collected all year from the entire student body. This year the pot is $67,000. That money would mean everything to Heather, allowing her to leave the trailer park she lives in with her often high mother and build a new life for her and her younger sister. Meanwhile, Dodge is focused on revenge against a family he blames for leaving his sister in a wheelchair after a Panic game gone bad. As the competition heats up -- and Heather and Dodge continue to advance -- readers will wonder: Will either of them get what they're really after?
Is it any good?
The premise of PANIC is pretty genius, and readers will find themselves having to take a break to catch their breaths during some of the challenges. In one, blindfolded competitors must cross six lanes of highway traffic, and clever readers will know that when Heather goes to work for a woman caring for two abandoned tigers that the big cats are going to play some role in the game.
Author Lauren Oliver sets her story in a well-drawn and depressing town, creating a convincing reason for her teen characters to put their lives on the line for a chance to get out. She builds the tension well, too, right up to a final night of chicken races on a country road. But, even then, there are some surprising twists for the protagonists to navigate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the competition. Does it seem realistic that so many teens would compete in challenges that could kill them?
Have you read other books about young people competing with their lives (like, say, in The Hunger Games)? How does Panic compare?
Does writing about fictional teens doing dangerous dares make real-life teens more likely to do them? Or do you think it's pretty clear the challenges here go too far?
- Author: Lauren Oliver
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date: March 4, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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