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Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Monument 14

by Emmy Laybourne

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I’ve read many end-of-the-world books, but I’ve never come across anything quite like Emma Laybourne’s “Monument 14.” Amidst the sea of dystopian novels, it’s very easy to find a common theme being developed in many books. However, Laybourne’s debut novel gives us an entirely different glance in a chaotic world.

With a blend of dystopia and coming of age, “Monument 14” takes us into a near future, apocalyptic Earth full of raw and intense events. Laybourne’s incredible storytelling and characterization turns this paperback into an enjoyable fast-paced thriller.

“Monument 14” starts off as a normal day with brothers Dean and Alex running to catch up to their respective buses. (We’ve seen it before, everything is going fine.) However, it turns into anything but ordinary. A sudden monster hailstorm begins, quickly destroying the high school bus that Dean is in. Fortunately, the bus full of younger kids and Dean’s little brother Alex is taken to safety, and the bus driver comes back to rescue the high schoolers who have survived. Dean, the narrator, is part of the lucky 14 kids who have been saved. We see all these catastrophes unfold through his eyes as we discover how 5-17 year olds behave when trapped in a superstore and forced to fend for themselves as their only adult figure leaves to find help. It doesn’t seem too bad though right? I mean, they’ve got practically everything they need at their fingertips.

The events that follow are horrifically terrifying. Right at the start we are brought into a mega-tsunami, large earthquake, and a chemical spill that affects different blood types. I loved the basic cause of the apocalypse in this story – which unlike most books does not directly blame human action for the collapse of the planet. Though a bit far-fetched, I think this aspect of the book makes it stand out amongst the midst of many dystopian novels today.

Emma Laybourne’s version of the apocalypse is what makes “Monument 14” work. I’ve started to grow tired of all the typical scenarios we get bombarded with in nearly all apocalyptic novels. Of course, stories like this don’t have many different endings, so I expected it to end in savagery as a modern day “Lord of the Flies” or everyone gets saved and lives happily ever after. However, Laybourne takes a completely different route which makes this all the more interesting and just enough room for a sequel.

In such a small setting, characters become extremely vital. Even though we can only see them through Dean’s point of view, Laybourne gives us a descriptive look at each character equally— not an easy task to accomplish. Between the 14 characters, we have 6 kindergarteners one of whom speaks little English. We also have Alex, Dean’s brother who is a middle school genius; another middle schooler and 6 high schoolers who all must come up with a way to organize themselves. Each name comes with a background, which helps us better understand how they would cope with this trauma, and Laybourne acts as an excellent psychologist in describing this.

That being said, I was rather disappointed by the portrayal of the three main girl characters. Josie, Astrid, and Sahalia were not very uniquely created or developed throughout the story. They all had the ability to be great characters which is why I was dismayed to find this since surely Y.A. novels have grown past “the Mom, the beautiful Athlete, and the Bad one.”

Knowing that this was a young adult novel, I was prepared for some romance, but the romance in “Monument 14” is anything but one-of-a-kind. Dean, our bookish, and not popular but loveable narrator has long been in love with Astrid, who he describes as “champion diver on the swim team, scornful goddess, and girl of my dreams.” To make it all the more merrier, Astrid just happens to be dating dumb but popular jock Jake. Thus, we see stereotypical love triangle start to form. There’s also another love triangle that begins between “Motherly” Josie, bully Brayden, and pariah—but natural leader—Niko. I won’t hold it against Laybourne though, this is no love story.

Though this book definitely had its flaws like any other story, it’s a good read for dystopian fans. It’s all too real scenarios and wide variety of characters gives this novel amazing potential. “Monument 14” has set the standard high and is opening new opportunities to a new era of genres like this. The cliffhanger that Laybourne leaves us on doesn’t bother me too much; this half-ending , new beginning promises a remarkable and thrilling sequel, and frankly, I’m excited for what’s to come next.

Near the end, when the kids figure out what to do next, Dean says “Saying goodbye to them hurt like I was getting stabbed in the heart” and let me tell you, ending this book felt exactly like that. ( )
  Kimchi8811 | Feb 14, 2017 |
Dean didn't say goodbye to his mom that morning. He watched is brother Alex, in eighth grade, get on his bus and he got on the one to high school in Monument, Colorado. It was an ordinary day for Alex - avoid the popular kids in back and try to be invisible.
But then the hail began....but there's far worse coming
On an old television, news has reached the Dean ,Alex and the others that NORAD's chemical storage has leaked. And it's turning people into monsters, building on their rage to kill.
Most of all, they wonder if their parents are still alive...and just how many survivors are left in the world that has come undone.
This is future survival fiction at its finest! Look for a sequel to this incredibly fast read that will take you to the edge of your seat!
Includes Common Core pair :)
Full review on my blog, or link on @yabooksandmore

  jothebookgirl | Jan 3, 2017 |
Love the story, but the writing is not wonderful. ( )
  mtlkch | Jun 21, 2016 |
Very similar book to Charlie Higson's The Fear, with the minor difference that the reader is not quite sure whether any adults have survived the apocalypse. Dean is a senior and his brother Alex is a junior. To get to their respective schools, they catch 2 different buses and today, the two buses are following each other when a hailstorm unlike any other hits! The hail is almost metal and starts to destroy Dean's bus, killing the driver. On Alex's bus, the driver, a resourceful woman called Mrs Wooly, drives the bus straight into a huge Costco like store, unloads the children on her bus and then drives out to rescue Dean and the few surviving seniors before their bus explodes.
The 14 children and teenagers are told by Mrs Wooly to stay in the Greenway store while she goes looking for help. While there, the internet dies and the only news the Monument 14 have is from old TVs in the AV department. They discover that a volcano has erupted ( explaining the hail) and a tsunami has wiped out the East coast of the USA. Then, there is even worse news - a huge earthquake strikes and the army's chemical weapons are released into the atmosphere, with terrible consequences.
If you are a blood type O, you become super aggressive and want to kill everyone. If you are a type B, you become sterile. If you are a type A you blister and if you are a type AB you have psychosis and hallucinate.
Luckily the riot doors to the warehouse close and Alex and Niko have the presence of mind to turn off the air conditioning and seal all the exits with plastic sheeting and tape.
The 14 are then effectively trapped inside. They can't go outside and risk exposure to the chemicals, and they are not sure if help is coming.
Fascinating look at different personalities all trying to live together and hold it together despite what is happening around them. Dean has his crush on Astrid to contend with but she is dating Jake, the football star. Niko is the loner and Brayden is the bully. Josie is the comatose girl who eventually becomes a mother figure. Alex and Sahalia are the tweens - Sahalia trying to be older than she is, Alex the nerdy genius. Then there are the little kids - Dean's neighbors : twins who are 6, Baptiste - who sanctimoniously tells everyone off "That's a Sin" and Chloe - the spoilt brat who lives with her grandmother. There is also a boy who barely speaks English called Ulysses and finally my absolute favorite Max, the product of a not too healthy upbringing (think strippers, drugs, etc.) who regales everyone with hilarious tales of his life before the apocalypse.
First of a trilogy that I read in 2 days. ( )
  nicsreads | Jun 13, 2016 |
This book starts off very exciting with the disaster that traps the kids in a department store. The book slows down bit at this point, but I still feel on the edge of my seat. The book is set in the near future, but it is revealed little by little. I find this kind of ANNOYING. The book is written in a stream of thought from the main character. It is very interesting. The book is hard to put down and has good pacing. The characters are relatable and likable, but the love triangle that is introduced feels forced. It is very enjoyable. ( )
  QCostello | Apr 14, 2016 |
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For my brother
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Your moher hollers that you're going to miss the bus.
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Trapped inside a chain superstore by an apocalyptic sequence of natural and human disasters, six high school kids from various popular and unpopular social groups struggle for survival while protecting a group of younger children.

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