‘Panic’: Book vs. TV Show

Lauren Oliver rewrote certain scenes and details from her original 2014 ‘Panic’ to be premiered on Amazon Prime in a way that made the story screen ready, we’re detailing just why these changes worked so well!

Karagan Knowles

AfterBuzz TV Host & Writer
Posted On: June 28th, 2021 2:27 pm pst

Maria Menounos
Keven Undergaro
AfterBuzz TV Founders

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, AfterBuzz TV is the artist-friendly entertainment news platform that celebrates, discusses, interviews, promotes and reports on the widest range of stars, creators and content through video, audio and article publications.

Credit: Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime’s newest teen drama release, Panic, came out at the end of May and has continually been climbing in viewership since. What makes Panic stand out as an adrenaline pumping teen binge watch is not only is the series based off Lauren Oliver’s bestseller that came out seven years ago, but the fact that Oliver herself was able to screen write the series for TV.

As the primary writer for the 10 episode series, Oliver was able to make changes to her original story in a way that she saw fit. Allowing the original author to screen write for the film adaptation is something that doesn’t happen too often, giving the viewer the ability to see the story through the author’s words and original point of view.

These changes don’t stray far from the original, but from someone who read the book and watched the series, here’s how they made the plot better.

If you haven’t watched the series yet, proceed with caution. – *some spoilers ahead*

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Panic kicks off the series by pointing out the setting and social class of teens that get the opportunity to play a ‘daredevil’ type of game after they graduate high school. The game is open to all high school graduates to face their fears for the chance to win fifty-thousand dollars, and takes place for the better part of the summer. The first substantial change that Oliver made, the setting.

In the book, Panic takes place in Carp, New York while the series takes place in Carp, Texas. Oliver has mentioned in several interviews that the reason for the change was to explore the deeper aspects of playing the game in a small town. This works well for the series because backstories surrounding most main characters include plot lines that work better in the new location. For instance – delving deeper into new student and main character Dodge Mason’s background as a rodeo cowboy and what brought him to Carp in the first place.

This is a very important difference between the book and the series adaptation, as Dodge is introduced as the ‘new kid’ with an unknown past. In the book, Dodge grew up with every other main character, making him less of a mystery and his motives more known. Making Dodge someone new to town gives viewers another new perspective and secret to figure out.

When watching the series, viewers are very aware that most people who live in Carp don’t leave. This makes the allure of playing the game much more prominent, since most characters do not have the money or the means to move away and fifty thousand dollars is more than enough to do just that. In fact, money is the main reason Heather Nill, Panic’s main protagonist who is first described by her friends as “too scared to even watch the game without passing out”, joins the game in the first place. The series portrays her character as someone who does not have enough money to take classes at the town’s community college, let alone someone who has the chance to leave the small town.

I had to go back and read my worn out copy of the book version, but money was never the instigator – at first – for Heather. Instead, the print version reads as if she was heartbroken from a recent relationship and needed a distraction. The rewritten version where money is the lead instigator for the game, especially for Heather, makes the stakes higher for every player and gives viewers a main reason to root for her during the series.

In the book, readers are conflicted with who is the primary character. Both Dodge and Heather share the spotlight and are front runners for the majority of it. While Dodge is still a main character, the spotlight is more on Heather as the show’s lead, especially since she is the show’s narrator.

Viewers definitely see more of Heather than Dodge in the series, a good idea for the adaptation as the storyline is given more build and with a constant narrator, more details are given in each episode.

Another notable difference between the book and the series is the adult presence, especially those who are aware of the game. Both versions describe the game ‘Panic’ as something that should be kept secret from those who are not involved. In the book, the cops in Carp are aware of the game being played and threaten legal action to anyone who is caught playing. In the series, Chief of Police, Sheriff Cortez, is introduced as the main antagonist to shut down the game, and his primary reason is because his son was a player the year before and ended up dying in a challenge along with his girlfriend at the time. This plot serves to give initiative to the police department to shut down the game, as they don’t want anymore teenagers dying.

In the book, no one dies from the game. Well, besides a tiger… which is another change they made for the series adaptation, but we won’t go too deeply into that one.

The series alluding to the death of two characters the year before makes the storyline more intense for viewers. This year’s players are aware that things can go wrong, and now they are not only playing the game but trying to avoid the cops during their challenges. Once again, this new adaptation makes the stakes higher, making for good TV.

What else makes for good TV besides romance? There are several different love interests between main characters during the series – not all the same as the book. Viewers don’t know if this is subject to change if the series gets renewed, but are patiently waiting to find out.

There are other smaller differences between the book and the series, especially during the ending. One of them is that the last episode sets up for season two, while the book had a closed ‘happy ending’ feel where each character reached resolution. Overall, the series adaption changed the certain details of the plot to keep the story going.

After watching the season and re-reading the book, it’s safe to say that Lauren Oliver could have big plans for the next installment of the series. Without a second book to go off of, Oliver has room to write new storylines and [hopefully] keep the same thrills.

About The Author:

Karagan Knowles is a journalism major at Emerson College in Boston and an intern with Afterbuzz TV. She is pursuing a career in broadcast reporting and production.

Founded by Emmy winning journalist Maria Menounos and Producer Keven Undergaro, artist-friendly AfterBuzz TV is the world’s largest digital broadcast network and pop culture news platform, producing post-game ‘after-shows’ for nearly all favorite TV shows, interviewing cast and showrunners and providing the widest video, audio and article coverage of shows, content and influencers than any entertainment news platforms in existence

“We don’t just celebrate and cover the top shows, content and stars, we celebrate and cover ALL the shows, content and stars.”

Maria Menounos

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