Dress the Part: Panic

March 19, 2014 2014, 4 star books, contemporary, Dress the Part, Kate, lauren oliver, Uncategorized 39

panic lauren oliver

Dress the Part is a monthly feature in which I use my past life as a costume designer and personal stylist to help the ladies of YA express themselves visually. This month we’re looking at Heather from Lauren Oliver’s Panic, a book about a young woman whose life falls apart the summer after she graduates from high school, leading her to behave recklessly and enter a weird contest that… I’m actually not sure how to finish that sentence, guys. It’s like this crazy daredevil game they play in her shitty little town. It totally sounds like something my friends and I would have participated in (the kids do some stupid, stupid, scary things), but the winner somehow wins tens of thousands of dollars, and I just can’t wrap my mind around where the money comes from. I kept flipping back through, trying to make sense of it, but I just couldn’t. If you have read this book and were able to figure out where they got so much money, please leave me a note about it in the comments.

(Everything past this point is based around a spoiler. It’s a thing that happens in Heather’s home halfway through the book. It doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot, but it is a spoiler, so. Consider yourself warned.)

All right. Halfway through the book, Heather’s home life gets bad in a way that is unsafe for her little sister, so the two of them move out and end up homeless for a couple of weeks. Heather’s too proud to tell anyone what’s going on, so the sisters live in Heather’s car until a very kind old person finds out what is going on and takes the girls in.

Here’s what’s awesome: I lived in my car for the last seven months of my senior year of high school. I was a seventeen-year-old girl living in a 1988 Chrystler New Yorker (if you ever need to use a car like a house, this is the one to go with; it has loooong velvet bench seats, and they are just insanely comfortable). Which makes me the perfect person to help Heather figure out how to dress well (and stay clean) while keeping her Jewel-esque housing situation a secret.

Here’s what I’ve put together for her:



Dress the Part: Panic


I know it all looks pretty basic, but it’s all pretty specific because you want to look like a normal teenager, but you can’t easily wash your clothes or, like, shave your armpits or anything. So you need distressed shorts and lightweight button-ups over layered tank tops. You HAVE to layer your tanks. If you wear a clean white tank every day, you can wait longer to wash the rest of your clothes. White tanks, white underwear, and white socks. One load. You can absolutely sneak and get that done at a friend’s house every ten days or so.

You want tall boots in case you wake up and need to, like, pee in the woods or a field or something. Lyme disease is no joke, and if you are unlucky enough to be a homeless white girl, you WILL get bitten by an infected tick. These boots are Frye and not cheap, but you can get similar ones in most small town thrift stores.

The most important thing here is the bag. I chose a Morning After Bag (I’m really into fashion design inspired by slut culture) because it’s cute and sassy, and the first moderately fancy bag I ever bought myself was one of these. All you really need is a bag that looks like a normal purse but is actually big enough to carry:

  • travel-sized toiletries
  • a razor
  • a hair brush
  • clean underwear, socks, and under shirt
  • a travel hairdryer
  • your toothbrush

And you need to keep those things in it (and it on you) at all times. Girls can get by with dry shampoo and baby wipes for a few days in a row, but you need to be able to jump on any opportunity to take a shower that you happen across.  You can make up a million excuses to get people to let you shower in their homes–you got something sticky all over you, you slept in that morning and now you feel gross, you’re sweating in the summer heat–and if it seems like you need to bathe, they will be more than happy to loan you the water. You live in a small town. People are kind and they are stupid. Use that to your advantage.

Here’s my concept painting of Heather (sporting my signature stubs in place of hands):

Panic Lauren Oliver

Panic is a really lovely book, but because so much of it matched up with things that happened in my life when I was around Heather’s age, I can’t talk about it even remotely objectively. I cried a lot at things that wouldn’t be sad to a normal person. I will say, though, that this book kind of brought Oliver’s YA books back on track for me–she lost me a bit during her Delirium period (and I really wish Panic didn’t sound like a fourth book in that series). I believe this is her first foray into straight contemporary, and she did it really, really well. No one writes teenage girls as beautifully as Lauren Oliver, and without all the supernatural stuff thrown in, her gift for dialogue really shines.

Panic was released on March 4, 2014. An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.







39 Responses to “Dress the Part: Panic”

  1. K.

    So I didn’t read past the spoiler alert because I plan to read the book but I saw the drawings and my eye caught the word “travel” so I’m assuming the main character does a lot of walking…anyway, I like the outfit. Something I would wear, actually, though perhaps not the bag. I like them slouchy and I’m not a huge fan of tassels. Love the sleeveless tops, though. As for the book, I’m guessing you thought it was okay. I was severely disappointed by her last series. I just feel like she lost all her magic. Meh.

    • Kate Bond

      I was disappointed with her last series, too–especially the ending. Boy, was that ever a terrible way to end a book series. Just awful. This was better than that, for me, but you could tell that Oliver struggled a bit with not having a supernatural element. What really worked here was… Well, did you read Before I Fall? Remember how real the teenagers felt, and how sweet that boy was? This has that. But it falls a little flat because there isn’t a big concept that drives the plot. Several commenters have said that they stopped reading around the 100 page mark because it wasn’t what they’d expected.

      I think you’d probably like this book, though.

    • Kate Bond

      You’re our second DNF commenter. Have you enjoyed other books by this author? How far did you get?

      When I got to the part about the tigers, I was like, “Oh, this book will be polarizing.”

      • kimbacaffeinate

        I have read her dystopian novels and enjoyed them. I set this down at about 100 pages. To be honest I expected this to be different. .paranormal or something. I couldn’t connect with the characters and sadly even the writing was off for me. It was like someone else wrote it.
        kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Gift of Prophecy by Lina Gardiner

        • Kate Bond

          It’s funny, I really loved Before I Fall, and when I read Delirium I had a bit of a hard time with it because it felt like a different author had written it, and Before I Fall reads like a contemporary novel, except that it has a Groundhog Day-style plot device. Her dystopian stuff does feel very, very different–just much moodier.

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah, teenagers are fun to dress in the summertime because they don’t have as many embarrassing body things to work around.

  2. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    This is such an awesome post idea! (I hadn’t seen one of these before. :) I didn’t really love Panic, but I liked the characters (and yeeeah! It does sound like another book in the Delirium series, eh?) I can totally see Heather wearing that. And the money kind of confused me too…didn’t all the school kids donate a dollar a day or something?
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…Double Review: A Corner of White & The Cracks in the Kingdom (and Cait’s sanity goes POOF)

    • Kate Bond

      Yeah, but they did this every single year, and… I don’t know. I’m from a tiny little town, and A LOT of us were so poor we got free lunch. There’s just no way we could have afforded to pay $5/week for some dumb contest. And the kids most interested in participating are the poor kids!

      I also had really mixed feelings about the tigers. I want to see what people have to say about that aspect of the story, because it felt really weird to me.

      …but I just LOVE Lauren Oliver’s characters. It’s especially her teenage girls, but she writes the sweetest off-beat boys, too. Sigh.

  3. Kim

    I am now intrigued by this book, but only because of you, Kate. I’ve found that anything that isn’t a straight up fluffy/light read contemporary is hard for me. It’s just that I find it too easy to project/identify with the issues in non-light contemp. I just end up re-living things I’d rather not. That’s no fun! I am always looking for escape in my fiction.

      • Kim

        Ha! My sleep schedule has been out of whack lately. Left to my own devices I would stay up all night but I’m in a constant, futile battle with that. I have a complicated relationship with sleep schedules.
        Kim recently posted…Ruins: Review

        • Kate Bond

          I’ve been this way since I was a child. I would stay awake until everyone else fell asleep and then read with a flashlight for hours and hours. Now that I don’t have a regular schedule, it’s out of control–I go to sleep as the sun is rising several days a week. Sigh.

    • Kate Bond

      I hear you re: escapism. What I will say about this is that Lauren Oliver doesn’t… it doesn’t feel like she has first-hand experience with this stuff. So while things ring true emotionally because she’s a fantastic author, the details are wrong, and that makes it easier.

      But yeah, I’m normally a Gayle Forman/Stephanie Perkins girl when it comes to YA Contemp.

  4. Carina Olsen

    Ohh, yes. The money. I think I remember reading about those. It came from all the kids at school; they had to add to it every day or something? I’m not sure. But I do wonder how they all managed to get that much money, still.. teenagers don’t usually have tons of money. I think. Anyway. I am glad that you managed to enjoy this book, though :D
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #127

    • Kate Bond

      Right. And they had to buy in to play…? I don’t know; I would never put money into this thing, so maybe that’s where the logic is falling off for me. They do this every year, though, and the people who plan it get money, too.

      Skeptical cat is Skeptical.

  5. Wendy Darling

    Someday I need to get this whole story about the homeless/living in car situation out of you. After hearing the parallels between what you went through and what Heather went through, it’s kind of staggering how perfect it was that you reviewed this one.

    And I haven’t read PANIC yet, but I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed it! Those boots are awesome. I can actually totally picture young Kate wearing this exact outfit. And busily, haughtily, wiping herself down with baby wipes.

    • Kate Bond

      I own these boots, and they’ve been a favorite for years. They paired well will my young haughtiness, ha.

      And it’s really not a very interesting story. But I’ll tell it.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Dress the Part: Panic

    • Kate Bond

      Thank you! Cress was my first one–there have only been three. If you look under the post’s title, you’ll see a “Dress the Part” link, and that should take you to the rest of them.

      It’s fun to have an excuse to use my old skills, because I kind of miss that job sometimes.
      Kate Bond recently posted…Dress the Part: Panic

  6. Mary @ BookSwarm

    LOVE those boots. Too bad my calves are massive (seriously, they don’t fit in boots that don’t stretch. *sigh*). Anyway, I can totally see Heather wearing this outfit. I can almost see me wearing this outfit but with longer shorts (I’m much older than Heather. Longer is better for many of us over 30). I do enjoy these posts. You’re a great stylist!
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Top Off Tuesday: Double your pleasure

    • Kate Bond

      Heather’s 5’11”, so I’ll bet she probably wouldn’t actually wear shorts this short, either–although who knows with teenagers.

      My big sister has large calves, too, and it’s so hard for her to find tall boots. I’ve heard j.crew makes good ones, but you can’t buy them in store. I HATE when stuff is order-only. Hate hate hate.

      • Mary @ BookSwarm

        I know! Boo to order-only. j.crew usually carries larger/tall sizes online but they don’t do free return shipping (at least, not last time I bought from them), which sucks. Hadn’t thought of them for boots, though. Hum… I used Zappos last time — ordered 7 pairs and sent back 6 with their free returns. Much easier, though my UPS guy probably thought I had a shopping problem.
        Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Speed Date with Alex: HALF-OFF RAGNAROK by Seanan McGuire

        • Kate Bond

          Yeah, I have unusually THIN legs, and they’re also extra long, so to get boots that really fit me I’ll need to go custom, which means no return at all. Or I can buy boots that are too big around and spend a fortune getting them taken in. Sigh.

          I love Zappos’s free returns. The best.

  7. Brenda

    Haven’t read the book yet but it certainly sounds like you nailed the outfit! I love these fashion book combinations, thanks.

    • Kate Bond

      Oh, those boots. I love them SO, SO much. I’ve been obsessed with yellow leather since Shannon Doherty wore a yellow leather jacket in Mallrats (which should probably embarrass me, but the heart wants what it wants).

      And it’s a sweet book. I really enjoyed it.

  8. Carina Olsen

    I’m still upset that I did not like this book. At all :\ (read about 100 pages) Sad face. But ohh. I love this post. I love the outfit that you put together :D Thank you so much for sharing. <3 and glad you enjoyed the book :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #127

    • Kate Bond

      What didn’t you like? 100 pages is DEFINITELY enough to know this one isn’t for you–this is what it is from page one.

      I’m curious whether people were expecting supernatural elements, since that’s what we’ve come to expect from this author.

      • Carina Olsen

        Very true. I just didn’t like the writing. Which was weird, as I have loved two other books by Lauren. And I didn’t like the plot; first, I kind of found it too boring (A) I was expecting more from the summary. And I just couldn’t connect with the main character. There was just nothing that I did like; so I decided to stop reading it :) I will still see what Lauren writes next, though, since I have liked other books by her ;p But yeah. This one was just not for me. Sigh.

        Ohh. Yes. I’m not sure if I expected that.. but I might have hoped for it. As I do love supernatural elements in books, hih (A) But yeah. I might not have liked this book because mostly I just love Fantasy books. So this got a bit boring for me :)

        Carina Olsen recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #127

        • Kate Bond

          Yeah, the story kind of…ambles. And, as I said above, I could not figure out where all the money came from.

          I’m glad this was a standalone novel, but I really did enjoy it–although I tend to prefer Fantasy, too.