Sharon M. Draper, Author
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, YA Fiction, March 2013
Suitable for Ages: 14 -17
Themes: Dance, Kidnapping, Sexual Predators, Sexual Abuse, Teen Dating Abuse, African-American
Opening: “Diamond knows not to talk to strangers. But just once couldn’t hurt. Right?” (Jacket Flap)
Synopsis: The Crystal Pointe Dance Academy is shaken when one of its members, 15-year-old Diamond, goes missing and no one can find her. Diamond and her best friend, Mercedes, make a trip to the mall before a dance performance to purchase tights. While Mercedes is looking around, Diamond heads to the food court to buy food so they won’t be late. A well-dressed stranger approaches Diamond and asks for directions to the food court. He tells Diamond that he’s supposed to meet his wife and daughter there. Harmless, she thinks. When Mercedes arrives minutes later, Diamond is gone.
Every other chapter is the voice of one of the main dancers, Diamond, Mercedes, Layla and Justin. There are parallel stories told as Draper alternates between Diamond’s abduction, the emotional reaction of the high school dance troupe to the situation and the every day drama of their own personal lives. There are some very important themes of relational and sexual abuse, teen dating abuse, trust, and family issues woven into the story. What holds the troupe together is their concern for Diamond and their love of music and dance. My favorite scene in the book is when the dancers are with their instructor, Miss Ginger. Each student selects a dance that fits their personality and expresses their own fear or desperation for Diamond — a beautiful and powerfully moving cathartic release.
Why I like this story: Sharon Draper has written a gripping and contemporary novel that is very real in today’s world. It is a must read for teens. Even though kids are taught at a young age not to talk to strangers, abductions continue. There is no tidy description for sexual predators. But predators have one thing in common — the ability to artfully lure a child or teenager into a web of lies and manipulations that leads to kidnapping. That is what Draper addresses in her skillfully crafted and suspenseful novel. Draper handles Diamond’s abduction scene realistically but with sensitivity. She also has a gift of getting into the minds of each character. Panic is one book readers will have difficulty putting down because it is a page turner. Hopefully teens will learn through Diamond the tragic results of taking risks with strangers. Panic is an excellent book for school libraries.
Book Giveaway: I will be giving away one copy of Panic during a random drawing on March 29. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and indicate whether you’d like to be included in the drawing. I will announce the winner on Saturday, March 30.
Sharon Draper a New York Times best-selling author has also won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for Fears of a Tiger. She won the Coretta Scott King Literary Award for her novels Copper Sun, and Forged by Fire, and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho. She also was selected as a National Teacher of the Year. For more information about all the books she’s published, resources, activities, interviews and information on school visits, visit Draper’s website. I’ve also reviewed Draper’s novels, Out of My Mind, Copper Sun and Double Dutch.