Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Genre: YA, Apocalypse, Lord of the Flies
Summary: Dean thought he was getting on the bus for a normal day at school when a freak hailstorm hits, causes two school buses to crash, and leaves 14 surviving children from the ages of 5-17 stranded in a Greenway Superstore. At first, it seems like a crazy accident, but soon their world is deteriorating into a full fledged apocalypse, complete with megatsunamis, earthquakes, and massive chemical spills. Even though they have all the supplies they need, the kids soon learn they have to drop the schoolyard games and grow up enough to find the ingenuity and strength to make it through the end of the world.
Who doesn’t love a good apocalypse? I know we do! There are a plethora of YA post-apocalyptic novels so we were very glad to find this book with the twist of watching kids try to survive the big event itself! Dean, our narrator, leads us nicely through the disaster – hating on bullies and trying to keep his brother and the younger kids safe. Monument 14 is a quick and fun read. No pigs were harmed during the course of this story.
I love me some apocalypse. Though I prefer the zombie variety, the one presented in Monument 14 is ultimately more terrifying because of the completely possible and plausible real-life catastrophes that occur. It could really happen – and I really hope I get locked in a BJs or something when it does! (Although I’d prefer about 99% less children during my apocalypse.) The Greenway superstore is like an oasis for our stranded kids – they have everything they could possibly want from junk food to video games and even booze! What could go wrong? Oh wait….children are bullies and awful. Okay, not always, but ugh.
It really just makes me so angry that even in a survival situation like this, people can’t get over themselves and just do what’s best for everyone. Like, hello? The world is ending and everyone you know might be dead – but hey, better make fun of Dean for being a nerd. What?? This is not a slight on the book as I know this is completely realistic, but it MAKES ME CRAZY!!! So obviously characters like Niko and Josie are my favorites – luckily there do also always seem to be a couple people who can keep everybody sane and together.
The ending was not really to my taste. I’m all for something open-ended where you’re not quite sure what may have happened, but I found this ending TOO open-ended. I would have liked a vague hint at least as to which way things were going to fall. (I don’t have high hopes for the Greenway.) I prefer a novel like this to stand on its own, but perhaps there was no hint of an ending as a hope for a sequel? I don’t think one is required.
Overall, this was a very quick to get through and I loved that the action started immediately. I also enjoyed the little hints at this being a slightly futuristic world without going overboard with it. Though not all the characters were likeable, they all had distinct personalities which contrasted in an interesting way. Pretty good read.
First – if I got stuck in Target during an apocalyptic storm, I would be so happy. Nothing can beat the depression caused by certain-doom like an endless supply of clothes and prescription drugs! Moving on…
The set-up was exceedingly realistic – from the perpetually late bus drivers to the kids who can’t be torn away from their tablet devices, the ride to school seems completely familiar. Because this world is recognizable to the reader, Laybourne can jump into the action almost immediately. This was refreshing after reading so many post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels. There’s no need for world-building or providing exposition when it’s a reality we already know. So when the world starts to fall apart around the kids, we get to experience it. It was also deliciously evil to have the apocalypse occur while the kids were on the paradigm of safety – the big yellow school bus. It was jarring, and I loved it.
What really made this whole book so compulsively readable was the mix of characters. Instead of having a homogenous mix of middle schoolers or teenagers, there was a blend of little ones (or kiddly winks, as they call them in England) all the way up to seniors in high school. Having such a variety of ages created a good dynamic. If it had been all high school students, I think it would have become more Lord of the Flies, and I probs would’ve been cheering for a death match by the end. The little kids were kind of hilarious, in that they could be easily distracted with copious amounts of sugar. But by having such needy characters, it served as a reminder that Dean and the other teens weren’t really adults yet either. When the kids cried for their moms at night, the older kids could only stand it for so long before telling them to shut it. This imperfect way of dealing with the little ones was appropriate, because the teens were just as worried and sad about their families – they just couldn’t vocalize it so freely.
The language was really sparse, which was appropriate considering the plot of the novel. The only thing that bothered me about this lack of complex language was that Dean was supposed to be a writer/bookish type. So even though it was the end of the world and stuff, I kept expecting him to be more insightful. Not saying he should be composing sonnets to the gas compounds, but I just thought this aspect of his character wasn’t developed enough. It starts out strong with how he hand writes things even as everyone else uses a tablet, but it’s kind of forgotten about for most of the book. There were moments of really dry humor in the novel, usually offset in their own paragraphs. One of my favorite bits was when Dean laments being tied up with rope that his own brother retrieved from the sporting goods department.
I’m a little torn over the ending… while it definitely provides enough for another installment and was rather poignant, I don’t really know how I feel about a certain plot twist. It seemed a little Twilight-y to me, but that is all I am gonna say. Even though the ending wasn’t my favorite, Monument 14 is a wonderful summer read – fast, engaging, and with enough twists to keep you guessing ’til the end.
Lord of the Flies meets the apocalypse, what kids wouldn’t want to be trapped inside a mega-store during some temporary end times? That’s exactly the case for the children of Monument 14, when an erupting volcano leads to a megatsunami which triggers supercell storms across the country. This of course leads to earthquakes and a NORAD chemical spill, talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire. Not short on action, things start almost immediately as hail rains from the sky and their plucky schoolbus driver deposits them inside a store with every convenience possible to ensure their survival. Although why she has them drink cough syrup after inhaling black smoke is beyond me. I’m not a doctor, but that just seems… Inaccurate? Wrong? Crazy?
As expected, rather than things being great and hunky dory in the Greenway wonderland, there are fights between the surviving children as they struggle to create a hierarchy and keep each other alive. A conch shell system would have helped a little bit, at least until things devolved into a cannibalistic frenzy with pig heads. Thankfully for the kids, things don’t get quite to this point and instead they use their free time to feed themselves with the massive amounts of food, turn dressing rooms into sleeping quarters and keep themselves entertained with books and games. Added bonus: this is Colorado so there’s also copious amounts of alcohol! Just think how much fun it would be to ride out six months of the apocalypse inside a Target. I’d have the most tricked out handicapped dressing room ever!
Laybourne’s decision to set the book slightly farther (but not too far) into the future is intriguing. Flat screen televisions and cell phones have been replaced with newer, more advanced technology. This tech stores everything on a global Network which is supposed to always work. They’re available in mini tabs, which people carry around and big tabs which have replaced televisions. Unfortunately they’re pretty useless during the apocalypse, so there’s a metaphor for an over reliance on technology for you.
While not the strongest written book in the world, Monument 14 is a quick, enjoyable read. There’s enough happening at all times to keep you reading, but without being too boring, slice of life, day to day about it. The kid’s ingenuity are the text’s shining moments and they definitely gave me some snazzy ideas should I find myself trapped in a mall or superstore; superstore would be fine with me universe. Although the ending oscillates between painfully open ended or blatantly leading into a sequel (not sure which) and at times I wished the characterizations were slightly more consistent. Others than these tiny niggling complaints though, I quite enjoyed June’s selection.
WHAT WE LIKED MOST:
-Idea of living in a tricked out superstore
-Lots of action and something always happening
-Smart kids with great ideas
WHAT WE LIKED LEAST:
-Lack of conch shell
-Mrs. Wooly’s questionable nursing skills
-Ending left TOO open ended
Join us next month when we review our July Bibliomantic Book Club Book: Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan.