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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Could spark teens to think about risk -- and why young people often feel compelled toward risky behavior. Does a competition like this one seem realistic or not?
The teen competitors are often afraid during challenges, but they're also afraid of their lives. Heather fears not being loved and being left behind as everyone goes off to start their lives. Dodge wishes that everything could go back to how it was before his sister's accident. Eventually, they learn to let go of the past and start building the futures they want. There are also messages about loyalty and taking care of the people you love.
Positive Role Models
Heather and Dodge do a lot of dangerous things in this book, but they're driven mostly by loyalty to their siblings, both of whom are in hard situations. In the end, the main characters learn to be good friends to one another; they also learn to face their fears and take responsibility for their actions.
Violence & Scariness
One girl holds a gun to her head during a game of Russian roulette. A man shoots at kids breaking into his house. There are fistfights and car accidents, and characters are hospitalized after being trapped during a fire. A girl remembers her father's suicide. A boy plans to blow up his car, killing another boy. A girl is thrown in a pool wearing handcuffs. A tiger tries to eat a dog.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing, including one pretty passionate scene on a trampoline, and characters put their hands in each others pockets. A teen girl has sex with a man who says he'll help her become a model.
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Lots of swearing, including "f--k" and its variations. Also, plenty of uses of words such as "a--hole," "s--t," "bitch," and more.
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Products & Purchases
A few brands, such as Coke, Taco Bell, Subway, and Ford Taurus, but nothing's really glamorized.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink at parties, and a girl character is often drunk. A mother's always partying, either drinking or doing drugs. She even drives drunk. A man dies of a drug overdose.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.