Panic
Panic
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Sharon Draper
ISBN 9781442408968
Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2013.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: abduction dance friendship panic sexual-abuse sharon-draper

Panic
by Sharon Draper

Sharon Draper (Out of My Mind) takes us into the heart of a closely knit dance troupe that bands together when two of their members face a crisis. The author balances a suspenseful plot and the emotional growth of her characters with ease and grace.

Four high school students in the troupe narrate: Justin, the lead male dancer; Layla, his crush, and the leading female dancer, who's dating Cadillac-driving Donovan; sophomore Diamond; and Diamond's best friend, Mercedes. Diamond and Mercedes make an afternoon run to the mall, but when the two separate, Diamond meets a handsome 40-something man in the food court who tells her he's holding auditions for a film. Draper never shows explicitly what goes on during Diamond's ensuing captivity, but readers discover what kind of film the man had in mind. By alternating among the narrators, Draper allows readers to see the progress of the investigation, and gives us a break from the intensity of Diamond's situation. A chilling parallel emerges with the relationship between Layla and Donovan, whose abuse turns into revenge when he e-mails topless pictures of Layla that go viral on the Web. The author creates a counterpoint with examples of healthy relationships, such as Mercedes and Steven (who brings candy to the studio for his "favorite chocolate bunny").

Draper's tale leaves room for hope that Diamond and Layla can repair their lives, but with the understanding that they are forever changed. Her book may well prompt teens to be more circumspect about their own responsibility in the decisions they make.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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