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The Aussie Zombie

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Panic - Lauren Oliver

Ah Panic.  Your premise was so good - a bunch of teens who try and outlast each other at playing a horrific game of chicken - there are physical challenges, mental challenges and the ultimate test of will and guts.  

Told in multiple POVs, Panic centers around three of the teens involved in the annual Panic competition - and the prize of more than $60,000.00 (if I remember correctly), has all the students vying for the top prize.  For main character Heather, it's an escape from her deadbeat mother for her and her younger sister and she's determined to do whatever it takes to secure the prize.  The other, more minor, POVs are that of her best friend, Nat and Dodge, who has a crush on Nat.   There is also Nat and Heather's best friend, Bishop.

What first struck me about the teens is that they ALL have family issues.  I suppose it isn't particularly unusual, but it just felt like drama for the sake of drama - Heather has a deadbeat mother, Nat's parents are distant, and Dodge's mother is a struggling single mother who works in the diner they live above.  And maybe I'm making more of this than necessary, but it would have been great if one of them had an uncomplicated family - and one that was a little more involved in what was happening.

The second thing was the fact that in such a small town, they all pretty much got away with the whole Panic thing without any attempt at parental or school administration intervention, and the cops only appear briefly to break up one game - although they fear being caught by the police, I found it hard to believe that they could get away with so much.

Back to the characters, and I really struggled to connect with any of them.  Heather is the main character, but despite her plans to save her sister from their scary home situation, I didn't really feel much depth to their relationship.  It was almost like Heather was going through the motions of what was 'right', rather than being emotionally attached and invested.

And then the ending - it was too fast for me, and pretty unrealistic - there's a huge showdown scene for the final game of Panic and there were parts that just logically didn't make sense - it was definitely a too-good-to-be-true scenario.

Overall, Panic had a lot of potential, but my inability to connect with the characters, and not being convinced by the plot made it hard for me to enjoy.