In ‘Panic,’ parents will read about their worst nightmare; teenagers will read about how nice kidnappers can seem and how deceitful they can be. Sharon Draper writes a chilling story that includes not just the kidnapped girl, Diamond, but also the friends she left behind.
A chance encounter at the mall with a man apparently looking for his daughter is nothing strange. But he mentions that Diamond looks like a dancer and that he’s auditioning new talent for a show. Diamond, he says, happens to look perfect for one of the parts. Then he seems to get a phone call from his wife saying that she picked up their daughter. It’s all so real and so innocent.
But once Diamond gets into his car, her life changes irrevocably. Her kidnapper soon locks her in a room, drugs her and films her doing things she can’t quite remember because of the drugs. Nothing is explicit; much is implied. Diamond’s story is one of three stories in the book.
Worrying about Diamond are her friends from dance class. One, Layla, has an abusive boyfriend, and the book alternates from the different points of view of Diamond, Layla, another friend, Mercedes, and Justin, a boy who dances with them.
Draper explains on her website what compelled her to write this story. “Several years ago I read an article about two girls, ages 14 and 15, who were abducted from a mall by a man who promised them jobs in the modeling profession. They got into his car voluntarily, thinking probably of being proud of making a sound, adult career decision. It was six months before they were able to escape their captor. Teen abductions in this country often are not reported because it is assumed that the teen simply ran away. Look at any missing teen website and you’ll see the faces of young people who are yearning to be found.
And although most of us think of Peter Pan as a delightful children’s tale, it is really a harsh story of someone who sneaks into a bedroom at night and steals three children! It’s an abduction worthy of an Amber Alert. So in Panic, I used Peter Pan as the backdrop, as students in a dance academy prepare for a performance of it. Dance and music swirl throughout the novel as colorful decorations. They help the characters express complicated feelings while they work through the demons in their lives. When they dance, they are more than the pieces of their lives — they are whole.”
It’s apparent when reading “Panic” that Draper knows a lot about dance. Her daughter is a dancer. It’s also apparent that Draper knows a lot about teenagers. She was a teacher for many years and was named Teacher of the Year in 1997.
“Panic” is a perfect choice for a book club, a class read or any reader looking for something different. It’s about making mistakes and being strong. One of the characters is derided for being a male dancer. He’s a great role model for those facing tough decisions and bullying. And the entire book can be an important lesson for YA readers who must deal with exactly those kinds of issues.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Atheneum Press (Simon & Schuster), for review purposes.
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