Review Blog

Sep 11 2014

Panic by Sharon M. Draper

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Simon & Schuster, 2013. ISBN 9781442408975.
(Age 14+) Sexual exploitation and abuse. Family issues. Teenage issues. Dancing. Relationships. The cover of this book displays a beautiful tropical butterfly pinned sadly by one wing. This is a metaphor for what is to follow in this sad tale of the abduction of a young dancer named Diamond, who is exploited by a predator who makes films for the prurient interests of internet viewers. The ease with which the character allows herself to be led into the abductors 'net' by the promise of fame is sadly frightening. Intertwined with this distasteful plot line are the stories of the dancers from her troupe that are left behind grieving and dealing with their own teenage, school, friendship and relationship issues. The abuse of one of the characters by her aggressive, but attractive boyfriend, and ultimately the sexting of images that creates great pain also added another agonising plot line. Set in an undisclosed US locale, the dialogue is peppered with uniquely American teenage slang and some bizarrely chosen character names. The incongruity of the horror of the central plot line with the fragility and innocence of the male and female dancers as they practise for an approaching performance is almost painful.
This book reminded me of the unpleasantness of the adult novel by John Fowles, The collector, or of Emma Donoghue's, The room, but without the quality of writing. Attempting to make this into a teenage text perhaps creates the discomfort, although the author has obviously endeavoured to make this more about teenagers and the way they deal with contemporary personal difficulties. Because this book has a younger target audience (in the 14+ bracket), I am not sure I would actively promote this book. Older readers (17+) who can cope emotionally with the horrors of sexual exploitation in an abduction scenario would be better to read the previously mentioned adult books.
Carolyn Hull

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