Inside Lauren Oliver’s Adaptation of ‘Panic’ and Why She Would Kill Somebody Off in Season 2 – What's new drama?

Inside Lauren Oliver’s Adaptation of ‘Panic’ and Why She Would Kill Somebody Off in Season 2



Olivia Welch in Panic

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Panic,” streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

Many fans of Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel “Panic,” following high school seniors who take part in the dangerous eponymous game every year with hopes of winning thousands of dollars to help set up their adult lives, were disappointed when that novel was not turned into a multi-book series, as is common in the genre. In fact, Oliver tells Variety she did want to write it as a book series, so when that didn’t happen, she turned her attention to a new medium: television.

Adapted into a 10-part drama series, “Panic” will stream on Amazon Prime Video seven years after Oliver first published her novel.

She penned “reams and reams of backstory and thoughts” on even the tertiary characters while adapting her novel. “I literally have a document with everything that happened in the town from 1989 on,” she says.

Small differences between the page and screen versions include everything from the location (Carp, N.Y., in the novel, but Carp, Texas, in the show) to the amount of the game winnings ($67,000 in the novel, but only $50,000 in the show: “I did a calculation — a look at the towns around where we were and thought about how big the high school could be and added up $1/day,” she reveals). Many larger character and plot points were changed in the adaptation process, as well, including why Heather (Olivia Welch) joined the game in the first place, and who really needed to be punished in the end.

Heather, Oliver notes was “full of quiet and inherited self-loathing” in the book, which wouldn’t translate exactly on screen. “The way that it was in the book, it makes it seem like literally she did it because she was dumped,” Oliver explains. She moved up the moment where Heather’s mother steals her savings to the front of the show to help establish Heather’s motive for entering the game. (She wants to earn enough money to get out of town.)

“Like many things in ‘Panic,’ it’s a way to physically pin it onto an object — the same way that they pin fears they believe onto these challenges, while avoiding facing the deeper meaning behind them,” Oliver says.