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May 25, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

MAHF Reviews: Monument 14

My first impressions of Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14 wasn’t entirely good.  For one thing, the characters seemed incredibly cliched.  You have:

  • The everyman main character, usually a freshman or junior in high school, often knocked around literally and figuratively.
  • His brother, withdrawn and a bit of a whiner, slightly younger than the main character.
  • The pretty athletic girl who our everyman desires.
  • The jock, often a bully of the main character, and currently in a relationship with the pretty athletic girl.
  • An adult who really, really, shouldn’t leave, but leaves and never comes back.
  • And a very withdrawn kid who people always spread rumors about, who winds up saving the day more than once.

Throw these tropes into a survival scenario, and you’d have something resembling that show Flight 29 Down.  However, Monument 14 did some neat things with those cliches and turned itself into one of the most creative, albeit unrealistic, survival books I’ve ever read.  Not that it’s perfect or anything.

Our story follows Dean and his brother Alex, who, along with twelve other kids, are stranded in a Target-like superstore when their buses go nuts during the largest hailstorm this side of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.  As it turns out, this hailstorm was caused by adverse weather conditions, which in turn were caused by a megatsunami which wiped out the east coast.  Also, said adverse weather released some crazy chemical weapons from a NORAD base in Colorado that, depending on your blood type, could render you infertile or turn you into a raging murderous psychopath.  (Side note: Why would you make a chemical weapon that corresponds to blood type?  What if the person you were targeting with it would just not be able to have kids anymore?)  These fourteen kids, using what they find in the superstore, make something resembling a society, all while facing crazy people and crazier weather.  However, getting a message that informs them of evacuations at Denver International Airport, eight of them choose to go looking for help, while the rest stay behind.  Ooops, I forgot the spoiler message.  SPOILERS BEHIND!!!!!

The best thing about this book has to be the scenario.  The megatsunami/chemical weapons thing was very creative, so props to Emmy Laybourne on that.  Also, the characters are distinct, for the most part.  You have a bunch of cute and entertaining little kids, except Batiste, who I would punch had he not been a fictional character.  Even the cliched characters turn out to not be cliched, with the exception of our athlete girl, Astrid, who was likable but unremarkable.  Incidentally, what is it with YA characters named Astrid?  First Michael Grant’s GONE books, and now this!  Another good thing is that the feeling of helplessness is well conveyed, as things become more crazy and desperate.  So, yeah, creativity, nicely handled characters, and good atmosphere.  Sounds good, right?  Well…

The best parts of Monument 14 are in the middle.  The very beginning is fine, but the ending… hoo, boy, the ending.  When I finished reading the book, I felt like this was one of the biggest cop-outs ever.  No follow-up, no clear indication of a sequel (although there is one, and I got it today).  Just an empty feeling of mystery and hopelessness.  Grrr… Okay, yeah, middle good, beginning okay, ending BAAAAAD.  So, I suppose my final rating for Monument 14 is a pretty good 7/10.  It’s really creative (Though again, not very realistic), has some unique characters, and handles its setting and atmosphere well.  But what keeps it from being above-average are some cliched characters and a total cop-out ending.  I’d say it’s probably worth your time.



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