Description (from Goodreads):
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 can’t help but compare Monument 14 with Courtney Summers’ This is Not a Test. Both books came out within weeks of each other, and I read them nearly back to back. Both show a group of high school students in apocalyptic scenarios as they batten down the hatches in the one safe place they can find. Both then show the way that stress can have an effect and the resulting group dynamics. Still, they are very different books.
Monument 14 is narrated by a boy named Dean. Although he’s very much a real high school kid, Dean was a little too naive and immature of a narrator for my personal tastes. He’s always around the action, but he is not the action itself. Dean’s not a leader, and so the plot had a sense of being carried along rather than having real driving agency. I think my biggest hang-up in not fully embracing this book was Dean himself. I just couldn’t connect to his character.
I love disaster scenarios, and Monument 14 has more than its share of going from bad to worse. Think massive killer hail is bad? Try poison gas that makes you go insane! When the very air you breathe is capable of killing, you know you’re in for a bad time. Fortunately, the fourteen students of this book are tucked away safely in a massive department store. Imagine your personal plan for when the zombies happen. I’m betting at least half of the people reading this are planning on going somewhere like Walmart or Home Depot and waiting it out. That’s what this book presents, from going hog wild in the snacks aisle to fending off the people who want to come in and take over your loot.
Along the way, though, every person breaks under the stress in some way. The older cool kids who seemed to have had it together start hitting up the pharmacy a bit too often. Others ransack the clothing, or just plain hide within the store, no longer wanting to see the other kids. I would get frustrated with the kids’ reactions and behavior, but when I thought about it, the characters’ reactions rang true to what kids and teens would really do.
Monument 14 doesn’t entirely resolve at the end, and clearly sets itself up for a sequel. I think I’m going to steer clear of the next one, not because this book was bad, but because it was just okay and I can’t seem myself investing more time in characters I don’t care that much about.