Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne is a post-apocalyptic survival story set in near-future Monument, Colorado. On Dean's way to school, a terrific hailstorm proves to be only the first of a string of terrifying events. Dean is rescued, along with five of his high school classmates and a busload of smaller kids, by bus driver Mrs. Wooly. Mrs. Wooly takes the kids (surviving bus and all) into a local Greenway store (like a Target, with a grocery section, and a bit of everything else). Mrs. Wooly goes for help, and doesn't return. Then the store's riot gates go down, leaving the 14 kids on their own, sheltered from the rapidly crumbling world outside. What follows are the kids' responses to the larger world events and their development of a society inside the store.
There are power struggles and personality clashes, alongside the more fundamental struggles to survive. I read this book quickly and compulsively, eager to know what would happen next. Even though pretty much the whole book takes place within the Greenway store, it didn't feel limited to me. (A bit like Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It, which mostly takes place inside Miranda's home). I've always found the "getting back on your feet" aspects of post-apocalyptic novels fascinating -- establishing food, water, and order. And Laybourne's characterization is strong, particularly that of Dean and his younger brother, Alex.
I quite enjoyed Dean's first person voice, a little bit sarcastic, but also insightful, and honest in all of his insecurities. Here are a couple of examples:
"Mrs. Wooly, she was an institution in our town. A grizzles, wiry-haired, ashtray-scented tough-talking institution. Notorious and totally devoted to bus driving, which you can't say about everyone." (Chapter One)
"Behind me, Josie Miller and Trish Greenstein were going over plans for some kind of animal rights demonstration. They were kind of hippie-activists. I wouldn't really know them at all, except once in sixth grade I'd volunteered to go door to door with them campaigning for Cory Booker. We'd had a pretty fun time, actually, but now we didn't even say hi to each other.
I don't know why. HIgh school seemed to do that to people." (Chapter One)
"People called Niko "Brave Hunter Man," a nickname that fit him just right with his perfect posture, his thin, wiry frame, and his whole brown-skin-brown-eyes-brown-hair combo. He carried himself with that kind of stiff pride you get when no one will talk to you." (Chapter One)
The interpersional dynamics among the kids ring true, for the most part. There's a bit more emhasis on sex than I would have personally preferred (and that makes this book more a high school book than a middle school book). But I suppose if you were to put a ground of adolescents together with no adult supervision, well, sexual relationships probably would be a factor.
All in all, though, I thought that the setup of the book (how the apocalypse occurred and why the kids remainded on their own) was plausible and less contrived than many. (The device of a virus that only attacks people above a certain age, for example, has really worn thin with me.) I found the setting fully rendered and relatable, and the plot to be a good mix of excitement and analysis.
But the real strength of Monument 14 lies in Laybourne's gift for making me care about her characters. That's what will have me ready and waiting for the sequel as soon as it's available. Recommended for anyone who enjoys post-apocalyptic survival stories, age 14 and up.
I chose this book as part of Dystopian August. For other reviews of post-apocalypse-type stories, check out Dystopian August at Presenting Lenore.
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle.
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).