Interview with Emmy Laybourne, Author of Momument 14

Emmy Laybourne is the author of Monument 14, a new YA post-apocalyptic tale about a world gone mad.  Natural disasters and toxic chemical spills make life very difficult for the young protagonists scrambling to stay alive.  Emmy dropped by the virtual offices to chat about her book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Emmy Layton] I’m a YA novelist, musical theater writer, and recovered character actress who is also a mom to two kids and a lizard (adopted)!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Monument 14?

[Emmy Layton] Monument 14 is the story of fourteen kids who get trapped in a superstore (think Target) during a series of environmental catastrophies that leaves the world outside the store hostile and dangerous. It’s the story of how the kids come together and try to survive and take care of each other, despite their differences. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Emmy Layton] The idea for M14 actually began as a musical! I wanted to write a musical about a small colony of people living in a Wal-Mart. But then I decided to write it as a YA novel and everything changed. The only character who remains from my original notes and ideas for the musical is Astrid! In the musical idea I had a wild girl living up above the ceiling tiles. Astrid is that wild girl!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Emmy Layton] It was hard to take characters that I created (and really ended up loving) and put them through so much anguish. Especially the young ones. As an author, I knew that the story needed to really move fast, the characters needed to be in danger and the tension needed to stay high until the very end. As a mother, well, I just wanted to make everything okay. The mommy part of me wanted to make NORAD find a way to quell the airborne chemicals and have Mrs. Wooly show up in a new bus to take all the kids home to their loving parents!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Dean?

[Emmy Layton] Observant. Kind. Honest.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Jake would never have in his pocket?

[Emmy Layton] Great question! A calculator. A pack of raisins. A condom.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Alex’s single most prized possession?

[Emmy Layton] The analog alarm clock he took apart and put back together when he was five.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Emmy Layton] Authors Anne Lamott, Kent Haruf, and Lynda Barry; UCLA professors Howard Suber, TIm Albaugh and Richard Walter; and the ten years I spent as comedy improviser.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Emmy Layton] At least 4 straight, uninterrupted hours; a good breakfast with plenty of protein; and my Classical Radiohead playlist on Pandora!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Emmy Layton] Hold Me Closer Necromancer, by Lish McBride. I loved the characters, the tone, the setting AND the story! It was such a cool world – it made me want to move to Seattle and work in a fast food joint and you really can’t say that about every book you read!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Emmy Layton] Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. I read it as a 13 year old and it completely cracked my world right open. The latter installments are basically pre-historic romance novels but don’t cast aside CCB because of them. CCB has a brilliant, tragic plot that is nail-bitingly tense and deep, down-body good.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Emmy Layton] I love writing country song lyrics! I really do. I’m working on one right now called Jackpot about a man who’s determined to gamble his life away until his lady-love comes back to him!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Emmy Layton] I would love to connect with my readers on my website: or on Twitter @emmylaybourne. They can follow my blog tour via links on my webpage, too. Thanks so much for having me here at Manga Maniac Cafe!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Monument 14 from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.  Available in both print and digital.

Review: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne



   Title: Monument 14

   Author: Emmy Laybourne

   Publisher:  Feiwel and Friends

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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.
But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.

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-

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by publisher

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Review: Cinder by Melissa Meyer


Title: Cinder

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

ISBN: 978-0312641894


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.


I love reimagined fairy tales, so I was delighted to learn about Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. The first book of the Lunar Chronicles launches the series with a bang, and kept me reading late into the night.  Set in the future, in the streets of New Beijing, the world building makes this dystopian Cinderella story a fun, interesting read.  The citizens of New Beijing live in fear of a deadly plague that kills indiscriminately.  There is no cure, and it is always fatal. To give Prince Kai even more heartache than watching helplessly as his citizens succumb to the disease, he must also watch his father, a plague victim,  slip ever closer to death.  He doesn’t feel that he is ready to assume the throne, and he frets about the Lunar Queen and her ambitions to rule Earth as well.

Cinder is a mechanic.  She’s also a cyborg, and in her society, she has fewer rights than a vid screen.  She is only a possession, and worse, she is at the mercy of her stepmother, a woman who has no love for her.  Cinder’s skill at fixing things keeps her busy at her repair shop, but all of her earnings go directly to her stepmother.  When disaster befalls Cinder’s younger stepsister, the only person in her family to show her any kindness, Cinder is handed over to the government for medical research.  Yeah, I said her stepmother wasn’t very nice, right? This heartless act was proof beyond believe that the woman had a heart of stone.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into the plot, because it was a lot of fun following along with Cinder as she discovered the truth about her past, as well as learning more about her world.  As she learns more about who she really is, she also learns about the plague and the cruel ambitions of the Lunar Queen.  Just when things start to get overwhelming, Cinder’s relationship with the handsome Prince Kai deepens and grows to friendship, and quite possibly more.  I loved the soft pacing of this story thread, as Cinder and Kai slowly got to know each other.  From totally different backgrounds, they discovered that they had a lot in common, and their romance bloomed very convincingly.  They needed each other, someone to lean on and confide in, and since both of them were isolated due to their relative positions in their society, it seemed natural that they would gravitate toward each other.

Cinder is a cyborg, and she doesn’t want Kai to know what she is, so she keeps it a secret.  She is afraid of how he will react to the knowledge, and fearful that their friendship will change.  At the same time, she knows that  a future with him isn’t possible, so she attempts to keep an emotional distance from him, something that is easier said than done.  Forbidden romance is a trope that I love – how is it possible for them to ever have a happily ever after, especially with all of the other disruption occurring in their lives?  There are so many forces at play to push them apart, and yet they still kept drifting back together.  I enjoyed that aspect of the story very much.

The only reason Cinder didn’t get a slightly higher grade is because of the ending.  Once again, it’s not so much of an end as it is a stopping point to be continued in the next volume of The Lunar Chronicles.  That is my biggest pet peeve about publishing right now; all of the series and all of the cliffhangers drive me nuts.  I usually can’t remember what I read yesterday, let alone what I read last year.  When new installments of series that I am following are released, there is an uncomfortable adjustment period when I start reading the new adventures.  With all of the unread books surrounding me, I don’t feel that I have to time to re-read any, so sometimes the magic doesn’t re-ignite when I pick up a new volume, especially one where high expectations are involved.  End rant.

Cinder is an engaging story with touches of fantasy, science fiction, and romance.  The setting is richly imagined, and the characters and their situations are compelling.  This is a fun read, and I am eager to see what happens next.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Cinder is available in both print and eBook

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