Who hasn't fantasized about being trapped inside a superstore? Sure it would be fun for one night, but what would happen if you and 13 other kids were trapped there indefinitely while the world outside fell apart? Not so fun now, is it? This is the premise for Emmy Laybourne's action-packed debut novel, "Monument 14."
Imagine, one morning you hear your mother hollering that you are going to be late for the bus. You barrel out the door never thinking that this may be the last time you ever see her. When you are not even ten minutes from home, the strangeness begins; plate-sized pieces of hail start to pound down on the bus, breaking the windshield, collapsing the windows, and injuring many of your classmates and friends. Your bus tips upside down and out of control as the bus driver gets hit with a piece of hail and the bus goes rolling across the parking lot on its side, trapping everyone inside with the thick smoke that is sure to precede an explosion. You see your younger brother's bus, just as beaten up as yours, crashing ahead and running straight into the doors of the Super Greenway store in your hometown of Monument, Colorado. CAN you imagine? This is "Good Morning" for Dean Grieder.
Once the children from the second bus are stashed safely inside the Greenway store, Mrs. Wooley, the kick-butt bus driver, rescues the students from the overturned bus in the parking lot and returns them to the Greenway Store. Left with the following survivors, six high school students (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little elementary school kids, Mrs. Wooly goes to find medical help for the battered students while the group awaits for the authorities and their parents in the store.
When Mrs. Wooly doesn't return, however, things start to get ugly. The kids, let's call them the Monument 14, realize that they may be here for a while. After trying, and failing, to link up to "the network" (which controls all communications and is supposed to be impervious to natural disasters, nuclear war, ANYTHING!), they realize that they have no idea what is going on and no one will know where they are. They decide to investigate the store and see what they can find out on their own.
As the group settles into life in the store they discover through an old TV in the media department just what is happening in the outside world--natural disasters and a biochemical weapons spill that are tearing the world outside apart and turning normal humans into raging monsters based on blood-type. The group divides the work among themselves and seals off the inside of the store from the poisonous air outside, but being locked in a superstore with plenty of food, water, clothes, and supplies isn't just a blessing for them, it is a curse. Why? Because people on the outside want in; people who have been infected with the biochemically poisoned air. This just keeps getting better and better!
The characters in the book were a good mix of ages with various social standings and backgrounds, yet in the face of disaster they managed to make things work. I don't know what it is about apocalyptic settings that I find to be so intriguing, but the setting for Monument 14 especially delivered for me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how they made the store habitable and the thought processes that went into it. I could visualize everything and everyone clearly due to Laybourne's clear descriptions and quick character development. It was easy to get a sense of who everyone was from the dialog and the descriptions of both the children's surroundings and the events that took place. The storyline was captivating and the pace was brisk enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. In addition, there is a map of the superstore inside the front cover of the book that showed the layout of the store and I found myself turning back to it whenever I wanted to refresh my memory. This was a great accompaniment to the story.
I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone interested in a young adult post-apocalyptic read. It will keep you engrossed and waiting to see what happens. Will the Monument 14 be rescued from the Greenway Superstore? Will someone invade their safe haven? Will they ever see their families again? I will give a word of note: due to some strong themes and language, I would recommend this book for mature teens and those adults who enjoy a good YA book.
If you are looking for other books of this nature, check out one of these titles: "This is Not a Test" by Courtney Summers; "Trapped" by Michael Northrop; and "Life as We Knew It" by Susan Beth Pfeffer. All titles are available through the Cecil County Public Library.
Recommended by Brandy Walton