Thursday, 9 January 2014

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Title: Monument 14
Author: Emmy Laybourne
Publisher: Hachette Children's Books
Released: June 5th 2012
Pages: 352 (Paperback)
Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon US
Add on Goodreads

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?

As a kid - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this - I dreamt of being locked up overnight in a superstore. I mean, just imagine all the different items at your disposal (and how many games of The Floor is Lava you could play in the bedroom section); it'd be the best sleepover ever. Laybourne brings this childhood fantasy to life, but with a dark twist: the world outside is suffering from some of the most extreme natural disasters on record, and you are not trapped in the superstore for one night, oh no. You are in there for almost two weeks.

Despite the seventeen characters we encounter during the narrative, the characterisation is extremely poor throughout. I get a sense that they are real kids, but as the reader we never penetrate beneath the surface of their character. However, this is the difficulty with many books that have several main characters - you lose their individuality to the mass. I mean, I'm not even sure I had a clear image if Dean throughout his time as the protagonist - he was just a dark figure. A lot of them were.

The idea is very clever. I don't know whether it's just because the fact that a lot of natural disaster documentaries are airing at the moment, or the fact that I watched The Impossible for my mother the other day, or even the fact that crazy storms are hitting the UK, but it felt like Monument 14 really targeted an issue that is growing increasingly more likely by the minute. The weather they face, it is possible that we will face stuff like that too in the future. And that's scary; this novel is scarily realistic. 

I didn't really gel with the writing style. Laybourne talks down to the reader as if we're stupid, often repeating earlier events as if we'd forgotten all about them. An argument could be that this is a book meant for preteens, but considering the mildly explicit content involving Astrid's upper regions, I don't think so. It's difficult to like the writing style of a novel that ends up being patronising - you know, just as a note.

Another part about this book that don't endear me to it was that it reminded me of two books - one of which I don't know why I enjoy, and the other of which I really don't like. The vague plot line resembles Golding's Lord of the Flies - a bunch of children trapped together in a small location with war raging around them? Yep, sounds familiar. Good idea, but I hate LotF. The second book I'm reminded of - or series - is Gone by Michael Grant. I've read four of the instalments, and a common statement of mine is that I keep reading it although I don't really like it. So having this as a comparison to Gone? Not such a good thing. So many of these post-apocalyptic stories resemble one another nowadays. Is it too much to ask for something that's a bit original?

I know I've complained about a lot of points to do with this book, but it wasn't all bad. I read it within a day - there's something addictive about the storyline that keeps you coming back for more. It's definitely worth a try.
Rating: 3/5

1 comment:

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