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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Review: Panic Attack by Jason Starr

In Jason Starr’s novel, Panic Attack, Adam Bloom is successful psychologist with a busy practice and happily married to his wife Dana. They live in a beautiful three-story home with their 22-year-old daughter, Marissa. Late one night, Marissa wakes Adam and Dana; there is someone in their home. Adam takes his gun from the closet and uses it to kill one of the intruders. The Bloom’s lives change dramatically after that. Adam sees himself as a “hero”, and is stunned to discover that not everyone agrees. Dana and Adam’s marriage, that seemed so solid, is on shaky ground. Then Marissa meets the man of her dreams, Xan, setting in motion a series of events with deadly consequences.

It's often hard for me to read and review a book filled with such unlikable characters. Adam Bloom, is, in short and to use the vernacular of today’s teens…a douche. A strutting banty rooster of a man, certain he behaved heroically, when what he did was panic and over-react. Dana, a self-absorbed woman, is intent on fighting off the years and looking young as she hooks up with her trainer. His spoiled, equally self-absorbed daughter Marissa, who flits from relationship to relationship while posting all her “deep” thoughts on her blog. The type of young woman who is not only sure of her place in the world, but believes it to be her place because she deserves it, not because she’s earned it. Then we have the antagonist, Xan. Yikes, is he a piece of work. I do believe he’s even more egotistical and arrogant than Adam Bloom. At one point in time, I thought that Adam’s character had a moment of clarity and possibly redemption, but I was wrong. Up until the end, Adam was sure that Adam knew best and only he could save the day. Xan remained a deluded and arrogant sociopath, and Marissa, who had the most to learn from all this, remained completely oblivious to her own responsibility for the situation.

A couple things I learned from this book though…First, I’m eternally grateful that I’m not married to a psychologist.

“I was just making an observation, that’s all, and wanted to let you know how it made me feel. It made me feel uncomfortable. It made me feel jealous.”
Adam was still in an annoying phase where he was constantly announcing his feelings, talking in I-statements. It was getting seriously wearing.”

The book has numerous conversations between Dana and Adam, where Adam is intent on discussing things in the proper way, using, as the author calls them “I-statements”. I’d probably murderate my hubby if he talked like that.

Second, one of the things I really took from this book is how easy a personal blog can make life for a stalker or con man.

He felt like he’d hit the jackpot, like the goddamn stars were aligning. This was almost going to be too easy—everything he needed to know about her was right here in her blog. And she didn’t have one of those blogs that went on and on, talking about shit in the news. This blog was all about her, like a freaking diary. She posted almost every day, and the archives seemed to go back for years, to when she was in high school. All Johnny had to do was read this whole blog a few times and he’d be the Marissa Bloom expert of the whole goddamn world.

*Note to teens and young women…do not post “where I’ll be tonight’s” on your blog. Don’t tell your life story on your blog. We think we’re all anonymous online, but really it’s as if you handed a stranger your date book and diary and said, “Knock yourself out...” *

Now comes the hard part. Would I recommend this book? I just can’t seem to answer that. But then, maybe that’s an answer right there. I thought it had an unsatisfying end, although there was an "oh crap" moment that I wasn't expecting. And none of the redemption I was looking for showed up at all. I guess it’s probably pretty realistic, but I like it more when clueless, self-absorbed jerks, realize the error of their ways and try to make things better. This bunch…didn’t even bother, which sort of left me feeling vaguely depressed and disappointed.

(Quotes are taken from an Advance Reader Copy and I haven't checked them against the final edition for accuracy.)

My rating:


Book Bird Dog said...

I enjoyed your review - especially your comments on blogs and psychiatrist husbands!

CJ said...

Now that's an interesting review. Seriously. The books we enjoy are easier, in a way, to review because gushing comes naturally, doesn't it?

I got the feeling that you were trying to be fair and one can't ask for more than that.

However, when I take your comment about the characters being self-absorbed and unlikeable and I add one of my big 'skip it' points, I think I'll be passing.

The skipping point? I don't mind swearing and I fully acknowledge that there are times when only certain words will do. However, the g--damn it is not a word I like, use, or can tolerate an abundance of. Twice in the same paragraph is simply too much.

Anyway, thanks for the great review, Kelly.


bermudaonion said...

Wow, that sounds like some book! You need to read Ravens - the criminals in that one use My Space, etc to find out about their victims. It can be a scary world.

Lenore Appelhans said...

My mother in law is a psychologist. Enough said.

(Ok, I'll also say I like the cover of this one.)