Very mild spoilers are ahead. It says something about our society that a series about high schoolers who perform life-and-death stunts for $50,000 just for the chance at a better life feels entirely realistic. And yet, Amazon’s new series Panic and its cast of characters is actually based on a YA novel by Lauren Oliver and not, as one might reasonably assume, a terrifying true crime docuseries about a high school student so desperate to go to college, they jumped off a cliff for cash.
Panic tells the story of Heather, a senior in high school, who lives in the small town of Carp, a place full of dead-ends and empty of possibility. Every year, high school seniors participate in Panic, a summer-long series of physical and mental challenges that are increasingly risky and potentially life-threatening, until there is only one left standing. The winner gets a pool of money raised by the school — most often around $50,000 — and everyone else is just lucky if they finish out the summer without serious injury.