Panic. A game for graduating seniors, with a prize fund that could change your life. The catch? Well, aside from it being illegal, it’s dangerous, tests your fears and might even kill some along the way. But everyone has their reasons to play.
See: Heather and Dodge, the two POV characters whose reasons for entering are entirely different, yet lend themselves to building new alliances and friendships. Carp holds bad times for both of them, from family suicides and drunken mothers, to paralysed siblings and a vengeful bloodlust caused through the game of years previous.
It a bit like a voluntary Hunger Games, but without any real structure. Jump, haunt, drive, tigers! It’s mental, but it doesn’t read mental. You know potentially battling a tiger is stupid, but then the character stands in a cage with them and nothing happens and it’s meant to have some sense of drama? I’m not feelin’ it.
I’ve only read one of Oliver’s books, and while I thought that blurb was something I would so not be interested in, I ended up loving it. See: Delirium. So how, when compared to a book specifically about love, does this one read overdone?
The idea of a mad contest that can give someone from a mundane town a chance to really attack life is great. The stories that would drive someone to risk everything for a fresh start is interesting. The game itself has some flaws (need I repeat: tigers), but explore the journey of that and the struggles people face, the desire to leave, look into it properly and – wham! – good. Give them consequences, a real risk to the game. Not “It’s illegal, but nothing will really happen if you get caught.”
But this didn’t really work. The character growth wasn’t there. Heather/Bishop have their ups and downs and things are just skipped over in reconciliation. The same goes for Nat/Dodge. It’s like I like you / I hate you / I like you / I hate you, and at some point we’ve had a discussion about this but that’s unimportant because right now I like you.
It was okay. Too neatly tied up without really exploring anything or developing anything. How about jail for plotting to kill someone? No? Okay. I mean, the potential to explore the game is really interesting and exciting, and would have really separated it from the Hunger Games, because there’s a literal choice in participation. But you want to know: why do they do it? What are other people’s reasons? It just needed something a little extra.