Monday, May 27, 2013

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (Review)

Young Adult, Science Fiction, Apocalyptic, Thriller
Publication.Date  June 5th 2012 (US hardcover), April 4th 2013 (UK paperback)
Published By:  Feiwel & Friends (US), Hachette Children's Books (UK)
WebsiteEmmy Laybourne 

Monument 14 on Goodreads
My review copy:Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

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?

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 you'll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you'd stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.

"They made something evil over at NORAD."
The world as we know it is gone. We're locked in a Greenway and an EARTHQUAKE just smashed the store to pieces.

"Then came the little tink, tink, tink sound. I took out my buds to hear better. The tinks were like rain, only metallic. And the tinks turned to TINKS and the TINKS turned to Mr. Reed's screaming "Holy Christ!". And then suddenly the roof of the bus started denting - BAM, BAM, BAM - and a cobweb crack spread over the windshield. With each BAM the windshield changed like a slide show, growing more and more white as the cracks shot through the surface. I looked out the side window next to me. Hail in all different sizes from little to that-can't-be-hail was pelting the street.

     Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne is a wildly entertaining cocktail of thrilling, fun, and claustrophobic. From beginning to end, this book is breathtakingly fast-paced and intense. If you're looking for a quick, summer read that is neither too heavy nor too gooey, this should be your next pick! 

     It all started with an eruption of a volcano on an island called La Palma - five hundred billion tons of rock and lava avalanched into the ocean. And it was only just a prelude to the complete chaos that followed suit. The explosion created a half mile tall megatsunami that would later be called "the worst natural disaster in recorded history". After that came the extreme weather condition that affected the rest of the country - supercell storms causing copious amounts of hail and strong winds. The final blow was delivered by the earthquake that ripped through the town of Monument, causing a toxic spill of devastating proportions. And the worst was yet to come...

"People in boats, people crying, people washed down rivers like logs on a log float, people washed up along with their cars and garages and trees and trash cans and bicycles and god-knows-what else. People as debris."

     The world is in chaos. Residents of Colorado and neighboring states are urged to stay indoors and seal all windows and doors immediately. They are told to stay put and wait for help. It is too dangerous to go out. Too late for evacuation. Not only are the roads and buildings in ruin, but there is a toxic cloud rolling through the city. Chemical warfare compounds have been breeched and everyone in a five-hundred-mile radius is at risk of exposure to its deadly fumes. 

     Fourteen kids find themselves trapped in a local supermarket as a deadly bio-cloud surrounds the entire town. There are no mutated monsters lurking outside, waiting to devour them. No supernatural creatures, strange abilities, ghosts or any other paranormal aspects to the story. What we have here is a group of normal teenagers and kids fighting to survive in a world ripped apart and flipped inside out. It's realistic. It's raw. It's straightforward and quite believable. Convincing enough to make you pause and wonder what would you do in a situation like that. And scary enough to send a cold shiver down your spine. 

     Now, while I definitely had fun reading this book and thought it was a pretty decent survival story, I can't say that I was blown away by it. It's a quick and entertaining read - fast paced, captivating and at times even heart pounding. But at the same time, it lacks depth and fails to engage the reader on a more emotional level. At least that's how I felt while reading it. The character development is minimal, which isn't really surprising considering the fact that the book is less than 300 pages long and we have fourteen characters who all play a role in the story. Plus, it obviously isn't a character driven story to begin with. But I wanted to at least be able to get to know the lead character a bit. A lot happens on the pages of Monument 14, the plot races along at a break-neck speed, people are forced to think and react fast, they need to make decisions and then take actions. And they do all that, but we don't really get to see the reasoning behind their decisions, which makes some of these decisions very hard to understand and accept. That's especially true when it comes to Dean (the lead character), who often comes across as not very bright, creepy or selfish. I found it impossible to connect with him (or any other of the characters for that matter), and the only person I actually grew attached to was Niko. 

     I thought the plot was pretty good, too, though I'll admit that some aspect of it made me either laugh or raise my eyebrows. For instance, I really liked the idea of the toxic gas affecting people with different blood types in different ways. What made me chuckle a bit, was the way it affected people with Type B. Out of all the ways the poisonous fume could affect them, the author chose to go with failure of reproductive organs. I mean, really? I know that to a teenage boy not being able to "get it up" is a situation just as horrible (or worse) as blistering and turning into a jelly on the inside, but still.. I thought that was pretty funny. And then there were other things - things like how the kids in the supermarket reacted to people on the outside when they came asking for help - that just didn't make sense to me. Overall, though, I thought that Emmy Laybourne did a good enough job of capturing the fear and desperation of the situation. 

     Monument 14 is not the best of its kind, but it's definitely not the worst either. It's a good book, with an entertaining plot line and terrifying premise. As long as you don't go into it expecting a life-changing experience, you should have plenty of fun with it!

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