Bookanistas Rec :: PANIC by Lauren Oliver

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is Panic by Lauren Oliver

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.

Honest confession: The synopsis of this novel didn’t do much for me. The fact that there’s no mention of romance had a lot to do with that. Also, the talk of the “game” and the danger and the high-stakes… I don’t know. Just not my thing.

But. Lauren Oliver is one of my auto-buy authors. Before I Fall blew my mind (it was my very first Bookanista rec), and I thought the Delirium trilogy was lovely, especially Pandemonium, the second book (another Bookanista rec). I have always found Lauren Oliver’s writing to be enviably gorgeous, and that holds true for her latest release. Check it out…

It was the final, explosive demonstration of summer, the line in the sand, a desperate attempt to hold fall forever at bay. But autumn nibbled the blue sky with its teeth, tore off chunks of the sun, smudged out that heavy veil of meat-smelling smoke. ~ Panic, Lauren Oliver

So visceral, right?

Despite my initial reservations, I ended up captivated by this novel. The game turned out to be quite gripping (the challenges had me on the edge of my seat), and the characters are, in true Lauren Oliver form, compelling and beautifully drawn. I thought the dynamic between Heather and Bishop was especially intriguing. Panic is one of those books that seems hopeless as you’re reading — how are these people possibly going to solve all of their problems? — so it was hard to put down, particularly as I hit the climax. And the ending… awesome.

Big recommend if you’re looking for a contemporary that’s gritty and unique, and if you’re a fan of stunning, evocative prose.

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

Jessica Love is captivated by LIV, FOREVER by Amy Talkington

Kimberly Sabatini loves LADY THIEF by A. C. Gaughen

Christine Fonseca applauds DANGEROUS by Shannon Hale

 Lenore Appelhans is riveted by THE GLASS CASKET by McCormick Templeman

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Bookanista Recommendation: PANDEMONIUM

Happy Bookanista Thursday! Today I’m thrilled to recommend one of my favorites of 2012 thus far:

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)

From Goodreads: I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

I adore everything about Lauren Oliver’s writing. Seriously. She could write 80,000 words about her latest trip to the grocery store and I’d happily pay $17.95 for the hardcover. She has an amazing way with words. She crafts protagonists who are smart and strong and likable, and romantic interests who are thoughtful and layered and, um… hot.

A little background: Delirium sat on my nightstand for months. I passed it up time and again because I couldn’t get excited about another dystopian (I’ve been underwhelmed by several lately), and, honestly, I thought the idea of love-as-a-disease was a little hard to buy into . Then I won an ARC of Pandemonium and knew I’d have to give Delirium a go before I could start on its follow-up. Well, turns out Delirium was pretty good. So good, in fact, I dove straight into Pandemonium upon finishing it.

Let me tell you, Pandemonium was AMAZING. It grabbed me immediately and never let go. If you were disappointed by the slow pace and inherent quietness of Delirium (I, incidentally, was not), you should know that Pandemonium is quite a turn around. While it’s similar to Delirium in that it boasts gorgeous writing and gripping characters, it’s also action-packed, with tension that made it utterly unputdownable.

Pandemonium is told in a then-and-now format, which had me turning pages at an alarming rate, anxious to find out what was going to happen next in each of the dual story lines. It was also an ideal format for illustrating Lena’s transformation and how it relates to her role in the resistance. She’s not a perfect girl, especially when she first enters the Wilds. She breaks down (for good reason), and she has her selfish moments. But, she is intrinsically strong, and she fights for what she wants, what she believes in. I love that about her. (In case you’re interested, Forever YA describes Lena’s awesomeness in their Pandemonium review a heck of a lot better than I did here!)

This installment of the trilogy introduces several new characters, many of whom I came to adore (Julian and Raven, especially). It also delves a little deeper into Lena’s world, the United States that declared love a communicable disease, but if I had one gripe about Pandemonium (and Delirium as well, actually), it would be the slight lack of world building. While reading, I found myself wanting to know more about the restructuring of the country’s boundaries, the government, and the histories of the DFA and varying resistance groups. Something tells me, though, that we’ll get more background in the third and final book of the trilogy.

Even considering world building that I found to be slightly lacking, I was still entirely consumed by Pandemonium, a true testament to the importance of exceptional writing, relationships readers care about, and characters they can’t help but root for.

And the end… Oh! Em! GEE!

(Haha! No spoilers here!)

I highly recommend Pandemonium (and Delirium!), and I cannot wait to read the final book in this trilogy, not to mention any and all of Lauren Oliver’s future work.

Check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to today:

Christine Fonseca is awed by A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS

Stasia Ward Kehoe shares some scoop on DEAR TEEN ME

Tracy Banghart thinks SCARLET is spectacular

Gennifer Albin brings you her Bologna trendwatch

Jessica Love sings for NEVERSINK – with giveaway!

Shelli Johannes-Wells interviews LACRIMOSA author Christine Fonseca

Tell me: Have you read Pandemonium? What about Lauren Oliver’s other books? Thoughts?

Bookanistas Recommendation: BEFORE I FALL

Yay! Today is my very first book recommendation since joining The Bookanistas. So excited to share my thoughts on Lauren Oliver’s debut novel Before I Fall with you…

From Lauren Oliver‘s website: What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Okay, so I know I’m a little late boarding the Before I Fall boat (this book was published March, 2010, FYI), but I did have my reasons:

1) The Buzz – Everyone and their brother read Before I Fall and loved it. I’m weirdly hesitant to jump into books that everyone raves about. More often than not, I end up disappointed.
2) The Premise – While intriguing, it initially struck me as a tad… boring. I mean, the same day seven times? Eh.
3) The Length – This book is a monster. Heavy and long and hardcover. A little daunting.

But… a few months ago I came across a copy of Before I Fall at my local new-and-used bookstore and decided to buy it, mostly because it seemed like one of those books every aspiring YA author should own. Well. Let’s just say I’m SO glad I did, and do! Those three reasons I listed above, the ones that so eloquently explain why I was holding off on Before I Fall? So, so stupid because…

I LOVED THIS BOOK.

Like, really, truly, added-it-to-my-all-time-favorites-bookshelf loved it. If you’re slacking on reading Before I Fall like I did, I highly recommend you remedy that. Here’s why:

1) Voice – So flawlessly teen, and it reads as effortless. Sam says what needs to be said. She doesn’t mince words, and she sounds like a real, cool teen. Not once did I find myself pulled out of the narrative because the voice fell flat or didn’t feel realistic. If you’re looking for a study in authentic teen voice, this is it.

2) The High School Experience – While I obviously adore YA literature, I don’t normally fall for stories set IN high school (unless it’s a boarding school–different story). The whole homework/teacher/switching classes thing usually isn’t for me. But Lauren Oliver’s depiction of Thomas Jefferson High School was fascinating, and so true to life. The dynamic of the “haves” and “have-nots” was never cliché and–alarmingly enough–reminded me very much of my own high school, right down to the Valentine’s Day flower exchange.

3) Pace – Remember how I thought the same-day-seven-times idea might read as boring? It doesn’t. Not at all. Before I Fall never rehashes the same incidents. Sam makes different choices from day to day, changing the course of events each time, thus keeping me completely engaged (turning pages frantically!) through seven relatively long chapters.

4) Friendship – Sam and her three best friends are popular. Boys want to date them; girls want to be them. They can do whatever they please at Thomas Jefferson (and they pretty much do), but that power doesn’t make these girls totally unlikable. Their redeeming quality, for me at least, is the strength of their bond. Their undying loyalty to their foursome, right or wrong, through each girl’s flaws and personal struggles, was captivating and endearing.

5) Kent – A quirky, unique, absolutely charming love interest. He helped me see the real Sam, the girl he so obviously adored. I was rooting for Kent from the moment I was introduced to him, and not just because he wore checkered shoes.

6) Character Arc – Before I Fall has one of the clearest, steepest character arcs I’ve read. Sam and her friends don’t start out sympathetic. In fact, they’re selfish and petty and mean, complete bitches, really. And Sam falls pretty darn far before she begins her slow, pothole-filled climb toward decency. But she does grow, and her growth is believable and enviable and absorbing. Even though the book didn’t end the way I thought it would, I felt satisfied and fulfilled and proud of Sam upon reading the last page.

So, in case I haven’t been clear enough about my love of Before I Fall, I recommend it up and down and all around, and I look forward to reading more of Lauren Oliver’s work.

Don’t forget to check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today:

Elana Johnson gushes about THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS
LiLa Roecker sings for VIRTUOSITY
Shelli Johannes-Wells praises books by Addison Moore
Rosemary Clement-Moore gets all wrapped up in WRAPPED
Jessi Kirby buzzes about VIRTUOSITY
Nikki Katz screams for LEGEND