Panic by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There's something about books set in places you know that brings out the nitpicker, isn't there? And for this book, there are few nits (once you get beyond the "there's this game that no adult seems to know about" premise). The biggest: the portrayal of I87, usually referred to as the NYS Thruway (from Albany on South) or the Northway (Albany to Canada). Second biggest: the setting is supposed to be "in the middle of nowhere" but Duchess County, New York isn't "nowhere" (well, ok, one could debate that but it's not, for example, in the middle of the Adirondacks or North Dakota).
Beyond that, the game of Panic itself is, well... disturbing. The backstory on it is minimal; it seems to have started a few years earlier, but exactly how many is unclear as is what drove the creation of the game. Was it Truth or Dare gone very, very bad? And how has it been kept this far from the radar of adults? Surely someone said something. If you don't buy into the premise of the book, it won't work and at times my belief in the game waned.
The characters and the romances (luckily not a love triangle!!) are, like the game, sometimes very strong and believable and sometimes not quite so much. I'm not sure why Dodge and Bishop didn't ring as true for me as Nat and Heather, but they didn't. And the runaway subplot? Hmmm...
Still, a strong 3.5 which I'm rounding up because I think a thriller-type book that doesn't take place in a dystopia is a good thing. A very good thing.
ARC provided by publisher.