Oh, Lauren Oliver, I beg you with every ounce of my being to stop using the narrator of this book for every audiobook that you have out. She is not the right fit and almost ruins the entire book. Authors needs to realize that the narrator will make or break a reader liking/loving a story.
Summary from Goodreads:
“Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.
Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.
For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.”
I am still unsure of what story I listened to. It was great idea for a story but I don’t know if it was properly executed. I can tell you this – I really wanted more out of this story. I wanted more action and suspense. Instead, I was given very long winded (and sometimes pointless) backstories. I know that it all comes together in the end, but this story took a long way around their elbow to get to their thumb. Sorry, that’s one of my country phrases meaning, “It is just the long way around for no reason.” I had a hard time sinking my teeth into the idea that Carp is a broke, tiny, one horse town where everyone just wants to get out, yet every single student is required to contribute every single day to the the Panic prize pot. How am I supposed to believe that? Not going to happen. Unrealistic in my mind. And you want me to believe that with teens dying while playing Panic doesn’t make the adults and law enforcment to want to take a closer look at things? It feels like these deaths and serious injuries were just shrugged off. “Meh. Kids being kids.” We won’t talk about how the very end of the book was sort of rushed, facts contradicted one another, and certain events were glazed over. Authors need to stop doing this. Take your time and explain!
I never connected with any character in this story. I felt bad for Heather, sure, but I believe she did everything as a knee-jerk reaction without thinking of how it might end or who it might hurt. Her homelife is horrible, but why couldn’t she have called Social Services or the cops? Instead, when things hit an all time low, she chooses to live out of her car with her eleven year old sister. Are you kidding me? It didn’t seem very realistic to me. Also, the one major thing that almost caused me to stop reading this book was Heather working on the farm and tigers. That’s right… farm and tigers. I won’t give it all away but if you chose to read this book, you will know what I mean.
Dodge is the other main character and he was nearly just as bad as Heather. Dodge wanted the readers to believe that he was in the game to win, but he really was it in for revenge. That is all he thought about for years after his sister’s accident. Uh… why isn’t this addressed more? Why has no parent or adult noticed that he is a bit obsessed with his need for revenge?
One thing I did enjoy about this story was the setting. I did like how Oliver was not afraid to tackle some tough topics, like poverty, neglect, drugs, and violence. These are sometimes much more frequent in small towns and it is not normally the kind of place teens would find good opportunity. Oliver’s writing style is still amazing, the ideas just seem to start going down weird rabbit holes and paths into the second half of the book. That doesn’t always make for a good story.
When I started this review, I made mention of the narrator. The voice for this book was not a good match at all. The voice sounded too animated, young, naive, and immature. To me, it was not the right fit. I don’t know how much say so the authors have in who narrates their books but I wish the book publishers would understand just how much a voice can make or break a reader. I nearly DNFd this one due to the voice alone. I had to keep asking myself it was the voice or the actual story that was causing me so much discomfort. In the end, it was the narrator.
Overall, I’m not upset that I read this book but I was expecting something completely different. I wanted suspence and action, not 60% backstory and crazy unbelievable story lines. I am still a fan of Oliver, I will just need to be more selective of which stories I read of hers. I’m not sure I can really recommend this to anyone but I will tell you this: read the reviews of those friends you trust and see what they have to say. I may again be the black sheep with this book but I do know that it did not work for me.