Panic by Sharon M. Draper
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(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Diamond knows not to get into a car with a stranger.
But what if the stranger is well-dressed and handsome? On his way to meet his wife and daughter? And casting a movie that very night—a movie in need of a star dancer? What then?
Then Diamond might make the wrong decision.
It’s a nightmare come true: Diamond Landers has been kidnapped. She was at the mall with a friend, alone for only a few brief minutes—and now she’s being held captive, forced to endure horrors beyond what she ever could have dreamed, while her family and friends experience their own torments and wait desperately for any bit of news.”
A book about an abduction leading to sexual assault is a tough sell. On the one hand, it’s a noteworthy cautionary tale about a predator who is well dressed and charming versus the scruffy stranger in an alleyway. I think that in this era of the Internet and how people can be other than they outwardly seem, a reminder to be vigilant no matter the circumstances is a good one. On the other hand, I’m not sure that I like the way it plays on teenagers’ fears of exposure and ridicule to increase the horror of the abduction. It’s not that it’s completely unrealistic, but I think it turns the focus a bit from where it should be.
Unfortunately, the focus strays more dramatically when following Diamond’s friends. This novel actually has two major plots: Diamond’s abduction and the community’s reactions to it, and the abusive relationship endured by Layla, another girl who practices at Diamond’s dance studio. A side note to Layla’s story is that of Justin, the only male dancer at the same level as the girls, who has a crush on Layla and hangs around hoping to get her attention. There actually seems to be more focus on Layla than on Diamond, which is odd considering that the book is supposed to be about the kidnapping and the reactions to it. There are a few scenes of the other characters dealing with the fear and worry about Diamond, but it gets lost amid all the other things happening.
Hampering the plot further is the fact that the dialogue is often choppy and comes across as forced. The author tries to capture the slang-filled conversations between the teenagers, but it just doesn’t work, partially because the characters don’t speak consistently. Two characters may speak to each other in slang one minute and revert to normal speech patterns the next. The adult characters come across as stilted, for some reason. I didn’t feel that I ever really connected to any of the characters, with the possible exception of Justin, who despite everything appears sweet and low-key compared to the others.
I think that there are two interesting stories that are competing for space in this novel, and forcing them to cohabit didn’t work well. Never having read anything by this author before, I’m willing to hope that this book isn’t indicative of her work. Despite its problems, I went through the book in one day, so it certainly had some redeeming qualities. It’s just that it could have been so much better.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on May 16, 2013.