Author: Emmy Laybourne
Series: Monument 14, #1
Release date: April 4th 2013
Publisher: Hachette Children's
Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong ...Fourteen kids stranded inside a superstore. Inside they have everything they could ever need. There's junk food and clothes, computer games and books, drugs and alcohol ... and without adult supervision they can do whatever they want.Sounds like fun?
But outside the world is being ripped apart by violent storms and chemicals leaking into the atmosphere that, depending on blood type, leave victims paranoid, violent or dead.
The kids must remain inside, forced to create their own community, unsure if they'll ever be able to leave. Can they stop the world they've created inside from self-destructing too?
Lately, I’ve been growing increasingly tired of all the apocalypse scenarios we’re being bombarded with. Getting me to read one without whining too hard is no small feat, my friends. But even though Monument 14 has been getting some very mixed reviews, I felt weirdly drawn to it from the start and surprisingly enough, ended up enjoying it. We’ll call this intuition, although dumb luck might be more accurate.
Emmy Laybourne’s version of the apocalypse is what makes Monument 14 work. None of it is too hard to imagine: the chemical disaster, weather gone mad, people affected according to their blood type, child predators using the opportunity to do their absolute worst. Really, this could all happen tomorrow! When Dean and Alex woke up that morning, they didn’t even dream that they wouldn’t be coming home that day, that there would be no home to come back to. Who could have predicted that they wouldn't be going to school at all, but that they would end up in a superstore with twelve other terrified kids and with raging weather outside.
In such claustrophobic environment, characters become extremely important. Worldbuilding itself, while convincing and terrifying, didn’t do much to show Laybourne’s skill. Characters, on the other hand, showed how great a writer she is, despite this being her debut. She did more than just flesh out Dean and Alex, she breathed life into all 14 of her characters equally. Each name came with a complete person with opinions, backgrounds, traumas, and more importantly, coping mechanisms. We get a clear picture of each of them, even though we only see them trough Dean’s eyes.
Each of these kids reacts differently and Laybourne is an excellent psychologists. Everything her characters did made perfect sense in those circumstances, and she showed rather excellently how people deal with grief and fear in so many different ways. Some kids fight to be in charge and organize the others to increase their chances of survival, while the others raid the pharmacy for prescription drugs. Some even attempt to do both. Adding the smaller kids into the mix was a risky, but extremely smart move. It was them, or the need to take care of them, that kept the older ones from losing it.
For the most part, our Dean is no hero. He is not one of the popular kids, he is not smart like his younger brother, he has no talent for sports and his people skills need work. But there was something about his sardonic voice I found very easy to identify with and while he kept doing stupid and embarrassing things, I couldn’t help but sympathize. His thoughts and comments were often unintentionally hilarious, which only made me like him even more.
The almost-cliffhanger Laybourne left us with didn’t bother me as much as these things usually do. There was at least some closure, not an ending, but a new beginning, a change in the circumstances that promises a brilliant and thrilling sequel.