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 sometimes have difficulty connecting to male main characters, so, when I opened Monument 14 and discovered that the narrator was one of the boys trapped in the superstore, I paused for a moment. I was entirely too interested in the premise to ever put down the novel, but I wondered if Dean would detract from my reading experience… I very much wanted to put myself in the position of the main character and I didn’t know if I could make myself think like a teenage boy. I can’t guarantee that Dean’s thinking and actions were entirely true to life, but he felt realistic enough to me that I never forgot the fact that he was a boy, but I could still understand his emotions and motivations. In the end, I grew to like Dean a lot and I was happy that he, rather than one of the girls trapped in the superstore, was the narrator.
One of the most interesting aspects of this novel was the presence of small children as well as teens. I think having small children trapped as well added another dimension and sense of urgency to the situation. I found the differences between the reactions of each age group really put things into perspective… for both the characters themselves and the reader. It’s already crazy that these teens are trapped and had to learn to trust one another and work together, but then to throw in small children that are alternately panicked or wanting to play and do something fun… the situation was terrifyingly real.
The giant hailstorm, the chemical weapons spill, the bus crashes, and the other events that lead to the fourteen kids being trapped inside the superstore all seemed carefully thought out and contained just enough detail to create a realistic picture within the reader’s mind. The entire novel felt very cinematic. I actually found myself matching characters from the novel to people I knew in real life. Each character felt so impossibly real that my mind needed a three-dimensional body to go along with the personality Laybourne created.
Monument 14 has landed a spot on my Best of 2012 list. I’m already anxious for the next installment, as the novel ended on a cliffhanger… I seriously get shivers just thinking about the intensity of the final scenes!