Amazon Studios took its first plunge into YA late last year with the release of The Wilds, which became a huge hit with audiences and has since been renewed for a second season. Just in time for Memorial Weekend, Amazon has now dropped Panic, an adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s 2014 book about a dangerous set of challenges a group of high school seniors play for a major cash grab.
Panic has been likened to Hunger Games in a sense of young people putting their lives on the line to come out victorious amidst unfortunate circumstances. Except this series is set in a realistic world, where teens go to insane lengths to win the huge prize of $50,000, more than enough to leave their small Texas town and start a new life. When CinemaBlend spoke to Panic’s author and showrunner Lauren Oliver, she shared how adapting her book into a series helped her expand her story. When asked about the changes from the book she’s proud of, she said this:
Almost everything. I mean like Bishop’s character in the book, he’s really like a romantic foil. I’m the only one who can do like sexism in reverse I realize in my books. Like all the male characters are completely underdeveloped, like Bishop’s character and of course they all changed with respect to the actors. Ray’s character has become very different, in the book he was essentially a foil, an antagonist really could have described the entirety of his personality including his brother.
If you’ve read the book, you’ll notice some changes in terms of the male characters specifically, who Lauren Oliver sought to expand with the adaptation of her 400 page book into a 10-episode series. As she told us, she actually felt a ton of freedom as the showrunner adapting her own material to explore elements of the novel she didn’t touch on when initially writing Panic:
And of course more of the context of the town. Almost everything I was able to unpack and that was always my dream because I don’t usually feel this way about my books but I really felt funny enough with Panic that I had barely touched the surface of it and maybe that’s because it came and went as kind of an allegory where you are writing a spare amount toward a theme. But I really fell in love with these characters and I wanted to unpack them, so I feel that way about almost every element.
As we’ve recently seen with book-to-TV adaptations such as Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, having the author behind their own series really does help an adaptation shine. Lauren Oliver, who famously also wrote Before I Fall, which became a movie in 2017, and the Delirium book series, had never adapted material for TV before.
Panic is a fun binge, and a lot less taxing than the trauma of The Wilds girls, driven by the select number of high schoolers who dare to take part in the small town game and the series of entanglements that take place as the challenges heat up, and begin to disrupt the entire town. The series has a good dose of summer fling romance, along with tackling some weighty topics surrounding planning one’s future in dire circumstances.
The show will likely hit the sweet spot the most for graduating teens looking for some escapism mixed with a too-real message following graduation season. But, Panic also has a grounded aspect to it we don’t always get to see in YA that will appeal to a wide audience. Plus, it’s great to see that the author behind the original story got to bring more to the story she crafted seven years ago. Panic is available streaming on Amazon now.