Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (2012)
It all starts out at as a normal day for Dean and his younger brother Alex with them narrowly missing their buses to school yet again. Then on the way to school, a freak hailstorm with lethal-sized hailstones crops-up causing Dean’s completely normal and almost boring life to be completely up-ended in a matter of minutes.
Alex’s bus driver, Mrs. Wooly, is able to keep her students safe by driving her bus into a Greenway store (similar to Target or Walmart). Dean’s bus doesn’t fare quite as well. His bus driver is killed by the storm and the bus slides out of control eventually coming to a rest on its side in the Greenway parking lot. The bus is on fire and moments from exploding in a fiery ball. Luckily for Dean and his classmates, Mrs. Wooly comes to the rescue and is able to get them to safety with in the Greenway.
No one knows how bad the situation is. At this point it appears to just be a super-storm that was strong enough to even knock out the network that is never supposed to go down.
Mrs. Wooly decides to set out for the school in order to let concerned parents know that their children are safe and to tell them where they are. All of the students, ranging in ages from kindergarten to high school, are left at the store with instructions to let no one except for their parents or school officials into the store.
The kids hold out hope for Mrs. Wooly and do their best to care for one another.
They quickly learn that they are on their own. Alex uses his skills with technology to capture a television signal where they learn that an earthquake has caused a breach in a biochemical holding which has released and contaminated the outside air. They elect a leader and get to work setting up the Greenway as their home.
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
What I liked: There is a lot of action and suspense in this book. Some parts are down-right scary. I haven’t read many books lately that are thrilling, suspenseful, and scary. This was a nice change of pace for me. I particularly got wrapped up in to the scenes where outsiders are attempting to get into the building.
I liked the concept of having to survive in a superstore. While almost everything is at your disposal, you still have to be resourceful. It was interesting to see how the kids used what was in the store to set-up their temporary home.
What I didn’t like: The characters were dull and typical. They all had their own box that they fit into. Of course in the group dynamics you had the Boy Scout who’s trained to survive, the jock who just wants to have fun, the bully who’s traumatized the main character his whole life, the one who steps in as the mother figure, and the love interest who’s strong and smart. Since there are younger students as well, you have to throw in the kids who just want their mommies, the 13-year-old who just wants to fit in with the “adults”, the kid who thinks he knows everything, and the kid who is bossy and annoying but whose feelings are easily hurt.
I’ll admit that I don’t often read YA so every once in awhile when I do decide to change things up, it takes me a little bit to adjust to the content. That being said, there is a lot of sex in this book, with much of it leaving me feeling really uncomfortable. I feel like it’s kind of a given that there’s going to be some fooling around between characters who are in high school and locked in a building together. However, the narrator is constantly noticing and describing the provocative dress of the 13-year-old. Granted, he sees it as inappropriate as well, but it still bothered me to have a young girl acting like this. At one point, two adult males come into the picture. Some of the characters love having them around, while other characters don’t trust them at all but can’t explain why. Of course that inexplicable distrust is revealed, but it’s in the form of one of the men attempting to have sex with the 13-year-old.
I really dislike when the established pace of the book is suddenly cranked-up with no apparent reason other than to introduce a lot of loose ends that will need to be tied-up in the sequel. The last 50 pages of this book has two characters dying, one becoming severely injured, one finding out she’s pregnant, the deliberate and strategic leader suddenly becoming hasty with big decisions, the kids who have only wanted to see their mommy again deciding to stay behind, and the group which has followed the mantra of “we are in this together” suddenly splitting in two.
My opinion in summary: I know it looks like I hated this book, but I did find it entertaining. Yes, there was quite a bit about the characters that I didn’t like but there was enough action otherwise to keep me reading. I probably will end up reading Monument 14: Sky on Fire to see what happens now that group is split. I am interested to see how the story is handled being told from different perspectives.
Overall Rating: 6.5 out of 10