First there's hail - not just any hail, but large, unrelenting hail. The school bus driver drives into a superstore (think: Wal Mart) to save the kids on her bus, as well as the kids on the high school bus that crashed in the parking lot. Then, there's a horrible earth quake. Then, a toxic black cloud. These kids just can't get a break.
At first there is the scramble to survive, to get the store sealed off from the toxic air and to provide basic needs. Also, since these are 14 kids of various ages and backgrounds, there's conflict. The personalities of these teens are realistic, and therefore the natural tendencies for some to be leaders, followers, bullies, and parents ring true.
The many decisions that need to be made are handled well sometimes, and have devastating consequences at other times. I felt really uncomfortable while reading this -- it hits too close to home, since this scenario isn't really that far-fetched. The fact that kids are forbidden to drive to school because of a gas shortage and the references to "minitabs" and "bigtabs" that are hooked into a network (not that far off...) give a "near future" perspective.
Laybourne builds tension in Monument 14 that never relents. There's always a new challenge, and unfortunately, there isn't any resolution. Another one of those "half books" that just ends. A big decision is made, and that's it. Very frustrating. Somewhere the literary structure of writing (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement) has just been lost in a lot of current books, and I guess I'm just too traditional to enjoy this new "series mania." *steps off soapbox*
Teens will like Monument 14. It's a classic survival story of teens on their own, being resourceful as well as frightened, but stepping up and growing as necessary. The realistic situation provides much food for thought.
Published by Feiwel & Friends, June 5, 2012
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection
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