Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
|Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy
|Summary: After an earthquake and subsequent chemical leak catastrophe, a band of schoolchildren holed up in a supermarket must find ways to get along with each other. Moreish and pacy, despite the claustrophobic setting, but characterisation is rather superficial.
|Date: April 2013
|External links: Author's website
Dean is on the school bus when disaster strikes. An earthquake causes storms and a giant tsunami that devastate North America. The bus is wrecked but Dean and a group of other survivors make their way into a supermarket before its disaster doors come down and lock them in. The network (the world wide web of the near future) has been knocked out, but the kids rig up an old-style TV and catch one of the final news broadcasts. The storm has wrecked a NORAD facility and lethal bioweapons have leaked into the atmosphere.
So. They are stuck. In a supermarket. With junk food. Computer games. Drugs. Alcohol. It's kid heaven. But these kids also have to survive. The world outside has been destroyed. Can they stop the world inside from falling apart, too?
There's a lot to like in Monument 14. The narrative is moreish and pacy and the book is a genuine page-turner. It's extremely claustrophobic and very evocative. And it's interesting because, in large part, the enemy is within, not without. Most catastrophe novels focus on external dangers - bad men, apocalyptic events, chases - but Monument 14 looks at the tensions within a small survivor group. So this story looks at tbe pecking order in a group of kids - something of relevance and interest to every kid reading. We all know what it's like in schools up and down the country, let alone in a supermarket after catastrophic social collapse. This isn't angle we see all that often and I appreciated it.
However, there are some niggles. The characters are, by and large, stocks - not much more than cardboard cutouts. We have the prom queen, the motherly one and the tarty one in the girls. We have the jock, the geek and the loner amongst the boys. I would have liked a little bit more depth here. And annoyingly, the plot arc for each character fits far too neatly with their "type". I think readers would appreciate people stepping outside their usual roles and I think the novel would have gained enormously for it.
Even so, the concept is great and the pace is great too. Those not worrying too much about character development will enjoy Monument 14 immensely and those looking for something with a bit more sophistication will still find the general set-up thought-provoking. Recommended with only slight reservations. We also have a review of Laybourne's Sky on Fire (Monument 14).
I think you might also enjoy Siege by Sarah Mussi, a tense, shocking and very affecting story of a school shooting and siege set in a dystopian near future. There's also The Enemy by Charlie Higson, an action-packed future catastrophe novel with chases and Lord of the Flies rivalries.
You can read more book reviews or buy Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne at Amazon.com.
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