Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne

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Author’s website
Publication date – June 05, 2012

Summary: (Taken 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.

Thoughts: This book had the potential to be stronger than it was. Though it was far from a weak novel (in fact, it has a lot going for it), it did have some flaws that really detracted from the reading experience, flaws that really couldn’t be overlooked.

On the surface, books like this are a dime a dozen. A group of kids in a suvival situation, while the world outside their refuge goes insane. What really makes Monument 14 shine is the sheer amount of realism in the children and their behaviour and reactions. This isn’t another tale of kids knowing better than adults. This is a tale of teenagers suddenly finding themselves in the position of surrogate parent when a wide age-range gets trapped inside a mall. Nobody’s perfect, mistakes get made, and I found myself on more than one occasion thinking of these characters as people rather than just the means through which a story is told. They were diverse and interesting, real and flawed and messed up and doing their best to get through a hard situation.

This book was incredibly character-driven, and not much action really occurs past the first ten pages or so. Most of the tension comes from people of differing viewpoints all being cooped up together. If you enjoy character-dirven stories, then this won’t bother you in this slightest. If you like your urban survivalism with more action and mayhem thrown in, then Monument 14 probably isn’t the sort of book that you’ll find youself enjoying.

But where this book fell down for me was in the “chemical apocalypse” aspect. The severe weather caused a leakage of experimental gas in a nearby military site. The gas has different effects depending on blood type. This was where I first raised an eyebrow. While I don’t deny that chemical having different reactions with different blood types is possible, I highly doubt that there’s anything that would provoke such radically different reactions. That was a real stretch of the imagination, but it becomes a rather powerful driving force for the children, to minimize their contact with the airborne chemical.

Also, there’s the sciencefail moment of the author confusing infertility with impotence. The gas causes infertility in one blood group, and one of the males comments that he can’t (if you’ll encuse the crude phrasing) get it up anymore. Sorry, but infertility and impotence are not interchangeable terms. An infertile guy can still get it up. He can even orgasm. His sperm just won’t fertilize any eggs. Big difference. I want to think that this wasn’t the author’s confusion so much as the character’s confusion, and his erectile problem had more to do with stress than anything else, but there was really no indication of this in the text.

Like I said, this book’s got potential. It was an amusing story, the characters were well-defined, the setting interesting, the emotions real and nicely conveyed, and the methods they all used to try to keep order were well thought out and creative, considering their location. But it had its flaws, and those flaws were, for me, rather large detractors from me appreciation of the tale. It was still worth reading, and possibly worth reading any sequels that are written. But it’s a book that I feel I can only recommend to a specific audience, and even then with the caveat that you don’t take it too seriously in some places.

Which is especially sad considering how invested you can get in the characters and their emotions.

(Provided for review by the publisher via NetGalley.)

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