Title: Monument 14
Author: Emmy Laybourne
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
May Contain Spoilers
Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.
Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.
Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.
In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.
I am fascinated by post-apocalyptic stories. I enjoy books where the disaster is unraveling without warning, forcing the protagonists to find hidden strengths and somehow survive the ensuing chaos. In Monument 14, Dean, a high school student, is running late for the bus. In his America, set a short-time in the future, there is a gas shortage, so everyone takes the bus to school. His mom is yelling at him to hurry up and get outside, or he’ll miss his ride to school. Racing out the door, he doesn’t even have time to tell her good-bye. As one disaster after another plays out, he begins to regret that he didn’t take that extra time. It is starting to look as though he won’t ever see her again, let alone live to tell her about his really, really bad day. I liked the urgency of the opening paragraphs – Dean doesn’t have time to do anything but barrel to meet his fate, and making that bus is going to have some alarming consequences for him.
A freak hailstorm destroys the bus and almost ends Dean’s life. Saved from a certain and painful death, Dean ends up in a superstore with a group of very different kids, running a spectrum of ages. With nobody but themselves to depend on, they have to work together to survive as one disaster after another wreaks havoc to the world outside. They actually have it good, considering the magnitude of the disasters that are unfolding outside. Secure in the store, they are safe and have plenty of supplies as they wait to be rescued. But as it becomes apparent that there isn’t going to be a rescue, they must take matters into their own hands. Should they stay safe inside the store? Or should they venture out into the unknown and look for their parents?
I enjoyed this read, despite some pacing issues. I also had to suspend disbelief in order for this story to work for me. The prose was strong enough that I decided to just sit back and follow along as Dean narrated his adventure. Circumstances weren’t all that dire for the kids because they were in the store, and thanks to riot gates, they were also safe from the evil bad guys who wanted in. I did get a little annoyed as the older boys spent most of their time goofing around, being unproductive and not towing their end of the line. I hated Brayden and didn’t think I would have minded that much if something really, really bad happened to him. He and Jake, football god extraordinaire, were so counter-productive and so predictable. All they offered up was opposition to efforts to get settled in for the long haul.
Dean is a little too passive for my tastes, and I wasn’t always convinced by his voice. I did like him, though, and wanted him to survive his ordeal. Events were also a little humdrum during the middle of the book, only picking up near the end. I occasionally found my attention wandering and had to take a few breaks during my reading. Even though I thought the pacing was a little slow, I was fascinated with the personality conflicts as Dean and his new friends struggled to survive. The non-ending was irritating, but I liked this book enough to follow with the series.
Grade: Waffling between a B and a B-
Review copy provided by publisher