Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review Discussion: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

So Michelle of Galleysmith and I thought since our joint reviews were so successful last August, we'd do it again. These are more in-depth than my usual reviews and discuss plot points in a non-spoilery way. We'll post about a different book every Thursday, and our last book is MONUMENT 14.

First, the summary (from Goodreads):

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

Six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids are trapped together in a chain superstore. Together they build a refuge for themselves inside, while outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapon spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.

Michelle and I decided to discuss four topics: Genre classification, Audience, Characters and Living Conditions. The first two we discuss below, the second two we discuss over at Galleysmith.

Genre classification:

I find it tough to really classify this one. The freak hailstorm that puts the kids on lockdown inside the superstore and the subsequent news that a tsunami hit the US east coast makes it seem like it could be a bit apocalyptic, but it’s really more disaster fiction. It is definitely in no way dystopian. Ok - so we have a disaster - but by and large, these kids are sequestered from outside contact. They’re living in an oasis where their needs are mostly met. Sure they grumble from time to time about missing their parents or their “minitabs” (like a mini-computer), and they do have some traumatic experiences - but compared to characters in other such books, they have it easy. MONUMENT 14 reminds me of a much less brutal GONE (by Michael Grant).

I tend to agree, it felt a bit like the Breakfast Club on very hard times! Definitely a bit of a must read for the disaster movie lovers in the crowd. I do wonder if it will be discovered in the next book that much of what was happening with the weather was a result of the government. I could see that being the case given the mentions and role the nearby government facility played in what happened.

The NORAD/Chemical spill element was the most clever aspect of this book in my opinion. One of the characters, Braedon, mentioned that his father worked there, so I kept hoping for some sinister reveals. Based on the ending, it seems the next book might well take a more global view and perhaps uncover a conspiracy. I mean, for what purpose could they have be developing such a specific mix of chemicals?

Yes! I can’t imagine there won’t be more to be revealed there. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Braedon knowing more than he let on while trapped in the store. But, this all comes back to the idea that it felt like there was something large missing from this book. It created a definite sense of anticipation but so much so that when nothing actually came of it the whole story felt somewhat anti-climatic. Sure, there was some action and there was even some interesting character interaction but that still doesn’t go too far into giving a definitive classification for the book.

I had so much trouble deciding which Zombie Chicken Merit Badge to give MONUMENT 14, I ended up not giving it one. And that’s not to say it’s without merit, it just doesn’t fit in any of my categories. While it does have some action scenes, much of the novel meanders along focusing on mundane tasks such as cooking (omg there is so much food prep in this book) and making the store homey. Our narrator Dean has a crush on Astrid, but this is not a romance. There are one or two small twists, but nothing really that surprising. The writing is fine but doesn’t stand out. And the world building is minimal. It takes place in 2024, but except for the TV sets being different, all the products in the store are exactly what we have today including PopTarts, HotPockets and Pull-Up diapers.

Again, I agree. This definitely felt like an upper middle grade book to me. Might be a bit too scary and violent for the younger readers but it was fairly predictable for the adult YA reader. Though it was fairly entertaining I wasn’t surprised by a whole lot of what happened. I think it will get the best reception from a very small group. I’ll also add that this book felt like a whole lot of set-up for the next. Particularly given how it ended.

From the narration style and “cozy catastrophe” plot, I’d say this feels most like a middle grade. However, there are several sexual situations (I’m thinking the peeping tom scene in particular) and incidents of teens getting drunk that would keep me from giving this to anyone under 13.

Definitely, this one is not for younger eyes but then the older will likely find it less compelling. It’s too bad really because I do have a feeling that the second book will be far more interesting. The problem is it may not hook readers in enough to bring them forward.

Don't miss the rest of the discussion over at Galleysmith!

Series order:

MONUMENT 14 - out June 5, 2012
Untitled Sequel - release date unknown

Visit the author's website for more information.

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: The publisher sent me this book for review.


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing your review. I hadn't heard of this one at all. Not sure if I want to read it

Evie said...

I agree with you Lenore. The first time I read the summary it reminded me of Gone because of all the kids. And there's even an Astrid in it :)

Zibilee said...

This sounds like a really unusual premise for a novel, and I am not sure it would go over well with me. Based on what you guys have said about it, it seems as if it might have left you wanting as well.

Unknown said...

So many thoughts now... First, "The Breakfast Club on very hard times!" is my new favorite genre. Second, the fact that it's similar to Gone and that a main character's name is Astrid (like in Gone) really stood out to me. And I wonder why it was set in 2004. That just seems really random... Finally, I love these joint reviews! It's fun to read a review that feels like a conversation :)

Uomo di Speranza said...

The idea of this book is just making me laugh so hard because my friends always say that, should a zombie apocalypse occur, our preferred hideout would be a convenience store like this one.

roro said...

hopig to read this soom even if it for younger teens

Kulsuma said...

I like the cover. It sounds good! I wonder if they leave the store? Won't there supplies run out eventually...