Lauren Oliver’s ‘Panic’ Is Nothing Like ‘Hunger Games,’ And That’s A Good Thing

In this YA novel, the only thing to fear is fear itself.

Bestselling young adult author Lauren Oliver is out with a new book titled “Panic” this spring and it’s based on a pretty obscure Grimm’s fairytale.

“[The story is called] something like ’The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn About the Shivers,'” Oliver said. “In that story the whole point is that [the boy] is too ’simple’ to know what fear is, and it kind of got me interested in what — other than a traditional definition of bravery — would make somebody more capable or less capable of overcoming fear?”

And thus, “Panic” was born. The book tells the tale of the small, poor town of Carp, New York, where every year graduating seniors compete in a game in which competitors are tasked with increasingly terrifying challenges. Points are deducted when contestants show fear and the winner, ultimately, scores a $50,000 pot of cash collected from every student over the course of the year.

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“The book basically follows two points of view, Heather and Dodge, who are competitors and who are playing for very different reasons,” Oliver said.

Oliver describes Heather as an “every girl” who doesn’t really think she can win Panic, but sticks it out anyway to give her sister a better life.

“She’s the one that I hope that readers will really identify with,” Oliver said. “Her growth and learning not just to confront the panic, the fear, that comes during the challenges in Panic, but also, you know, deeper fears about her future and her worth and all of that.”

Outsider Dodge, Oliver said, is competing for a darker reason. “He’s kind of an interesting moral character because what he wants to do is very bad,” she added, not giving anything away.

If the idea of kids competing against each other in terrifying circumstances sounds familiar at all — ahem, “Hunger Games” — Oliver assures readers that the tale is completely divergent (the descriptor, not the other YA series).

“I wish it were like ’Hunger Games,'” Oliver joked. “It’s completely realistic, so the book takes place in modern times and it does not read, unfortunately for me, anything like the ’Hunger Games.'”

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Don’t let her modesty fool you, though. Oliver is the author of a more than her share of excellent — and diverse — YA tomes. “Before I Fall” deals with death and identity as the popular girl protagonist is forced to relive the day of her death over and over again, and the “Delirium” series takes place in a world where love is a disease.

Oliver has also penned books for younger readers as well as an adult novel called “Rooms” — in which the narrators are ghosts — that comes out this fall.

“Panic,” which comes out in March, has also already been optioned by Universal Pictures for a cinematic adaptation.

When asked who she would like to star in the flick, Oliver said, “Jennifer Lawrence!” adding, quickly, “No I’m just kidding.”

Check out the above videos to get a taste of “Panic” before its official debut.

Senior writer/editor at MTV News. Former Mashable associate editor & CNN columnist. "Stuff Hipsters Hate" co-writer. Moshpit fan.
@BrennaEhrlich