Monday, 25 March 2013

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne **Review**

Monument 14
by Emmy Laybourne

Series: Monument 14 #1
Pages: 352
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Release date: April 4th 2013 (UK)
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK   Amazon US | Waterstones

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Thanks to Hachette Children's Books for my review copy

Goodreads synopsis:
Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong ... Fourteen kids stranded inside a superstore. Inside they have everything they could ever need. There's junk food and clothes, computer games and books, drugs and alcohol ... and without adult supervision they can do whatever they want.
Sounds like fun?
But outside the world is being ripped apart by violent storms and chemicals leaking into the atmosphere that, depending on blood type, leave victims paranoid, violent or dead.
The kids must remain inside, forced to create their own community, unsure if they'll ever be able to leave. Can they stop the world they've created inside from self-destructing too?

When I started Monument 14, I had very little idea of what to expect from it. My proof copy doesn't have the synopsis on the back of it, and all I could remember was that it was about a group of kids/teens trying to survive on their own in a post-apocalyptic world. This didn't give me much to go on in terms of expectations. In a way, I'm glad about this, because that meant that almost every element of the story was a surprise to me, and I enjoyed every discovery, as I learnt more and more about the kids, their stories, and the world around them as it pretty much self-destructed.

The action kicks off in the opening chapter - it's almost immediate. We're only a few pages in before the giant hailstones begin pummelling the school buses that our characters are in. In the couple of pages before this happens, we are given a small amount of background on the older kids, who we see first, through the eyes of Dean, our protagonist. Dean is not one of the cool kids, but I have a feeling he wishes he could fit in with them - particularly Astrid, the beautiful, popular top swimmer. We learn a little about his feelings for her, and about her friends. And then, like I said, we're straight into the action.

I really liked that there was so little time before the main story really kicked off, but I would have liked to see a little more of Dean, and learn a bit more about him. I know that we're told about his infatuation for Astrid, but despite this, for some reason I had real trouble picturing his character at first - I was even imagining him as a girl in my head! I'm not sure where the image of a girl came from, but I really struggled to get past it until we're given a proper physical description of him later on, once the characters are safely inside the superstore (after which I had a very clear image of him in my head and enjoyed the book much more).
Despite not being able to picture Dean in my head at first, once I was able to, I really liked his character. He tried his best to work properly as a part of the team, and to really help out, and he also looked out for the more vulnerable members of the group - especially Josie, who is badly effected by the tragedies that happen inside the school bus that they're on. He wasn't really that masculine (possibly why I was initially imagining him as a girl), but he could definitely hold his own, and I really admired him for that. He was probably my favourite character in the book, next to, perhaps, his brother, Alex, or Max, the little boy with the very interesting background.

Unfortunately, I did have problems with several of the other characters. The first of these characters is Jake, the Texan footballer and most popular guy in school - the typical Jock. At the beginning, he was one of the most stable characters, taking charge of the situation and being left in charge by the driver of one of the school buses, Mrs Wooly, while she went to try and find help. He seems very stable, strong, in control and fair (even protecting Dean from his friend, Brayden's, bullying), and he is the character that starts the system that all the kids eventually live and survive by inside the superstore.
But then he suddenly loses control, gets drunk and things start to go badly wrong. It's only because Josie steps in that chaos is avoided. This didn't seem to fit with the character that we're introduced to at the beginning, or with how he'd been acting up until that point, which is why I had a problem with it.

Josie is another character I have a problem with, for exactly the opposite reasons to Jake. She is the character that is the most unstable at the beginning of the story - in fact, she is completely unresponsive for a good portion of the book - and then she suddenly appears out of nowhere, her mind back in one piece, and takes control of the situation entirely. This struck me as a little odd, because there wasn't any reason for her to suddenly regain control of herself - it just happened in a place that seemed convenient for the story.
However, once she had regained control, I really liked her character, and I had no more issues with her.

The final character I had a problem with was Sahalia, the fashionable and somewhat promiscuous thirteen-year-old. She acted very inappropriately for her age, but this wasn't the problem I had with her - after all, it was just a part of her character. It was the reactions of the older boys that was my issue. She was described as 'sexy' on more than one occasion, and despite their best attempts to disguise it, the boys did get pretty worked up over her suggestive mannerisms.
I found this really inappropriate, and more than a little uncomfortable, and I could just about bare to read the sections where she was being described in this way. Fortunately, these scenes didn't last for long, but when they were happening, they did make me shudder.

However, despite these little hiccups with a couple of the characters, the story itself more than redeemed the book! As I said at the beginning, the action kicks off straight away, which is great, and after that, although the pace does slow down a little bit, it doesn't by much, and something is always happening to move the plot forward (not a page is wasted!) and my attention was gripped all the way through - I wasn't bored for even a moment.
Although I mentioned problems with certain characters, I still enjoyed seeing how they interacted with each other, trapped in such a close environment. I loved the separate characters' stories that developed throughout as certain events changed the way they behaved.

I also really enjoyed learning more about the post-apocalyptic world, as the characters found out more about what was happening. The chemical spill was a really frightening element in the novel - one that presented more problems and danger to the characters - and it definitely gave the story a unique twist. The chemicals that were released into the air effect people in different ways, depending on their blood type - so some people seem unaffected, but are made infertile, others have a skin reaction, giant blisters forming on their skin, and others become dangerously aggressive and attack whoever is around them. This was a really interesting element in the story, and it definitely gave the novel an extra frightening edge.

The story itself is spread out over 12 days, from the original event to the final one, which leads us neatly into the much-anticipated sequel, and I really liked this.
I had a very clear sense of time all the way through (probably helped by what day it was - e.g. Day 4 - being printed at the bottom of each page), so even though so much was happening, I could still tell how long they'd been there for, and what happened when. This made everything in the book feel more real somehow, and I almost felt as though I was there in the superstore with them, counting the days since they'd arrived, and counting down to when they might be able to leave.

By the time I got to the end I was well and truly hooked, and I stayed up into the early hours of the morning, just so that I could finish reading. I literally couldn't put it down. It doesn't disappoint, and I definitely can't wait to find out what will happen next. What I would like to see in the next book is a little more world building. Because most of this book takes place in the superstore, cut off from the rest of the world, we know very little of the outside (the book is set a little into the future, but we don't know too much more), so I'm hoping that we will get to see more of this world in the next instalment.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, despite some small problems (which didn't seem to matter much by the end). This was a really quick, thrilling, unique and compelling read, which I would recommend to fans of post-apocalyptic/dystopian fans, but would definitely urge others to give it a go too!


Paula Hernandez said...

I read it a short time ago and what bothered me the most was the infatuation Dean had with Astrid, how we were practically forced to like her or something by how good Dean talked about her. I did not like her, at all.
What I loved the most were the little kids, the twins were my favorite. :)

Pen to Paper said...

I agree about the little kids ... I liked most of them - though Chloe and Batiste annoyed me (not through bad characterisation, they were just annoying kids :P). Max was my favourite, I think!
I didn't *dislike* Astrid, but I didn't particularly love her either. I'm hoping that might change in the second book (which I do still really want to read).

Chocolate Chunky Munkie said...

I've just put a review request in for this one and they are sending me a copy. I can't wait to read this one Dani :D xx

Irene Jennings said...

I've always loved the idea of this book, but I didn't pick it up after some lackluster reviews. I think I'll wait until the sequel comes out to make my decision to read this. Great review, Dani. :)

Irene Jennings of Beef Jerky

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