Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends 
Pages: 294
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

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

In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.


Is that a guy or a girl??

What an awkward question, right? But there's no sense in denying that with some people, you really can't be sure with just a glance. That's what it was like for me with the narrator, and I'm sorry to say their characterization was a weak point of the book for me.   

Monument 14 started out exactly how I want books to start, with a ton of edge-of-your-seat suspense, action, and gore. The narrator's description of events was totally evocative and I felt every drop of fear, tension, and stunned stupor they were going through. Except nagging at the back of my mind throughout this whole beginning part was the question, "Should I be picturing a guy or a girl??"

So I will tell you: You should picture a guy. A guy named Dean. There, now you can enjoy the mayhem without gender uncertainty.

No points for you!

I'm a character girl, so I automatically had to take off a few points for Dean's wishy-washy voice, but the other characters didn't help much. For as ambiguous as Dean is, the other characters were all pretty stock cardboard cutouts. It was like The Breakfast Club: The Post-Apocalyptic Years.

When I read post-apocalyptic books, my brain automatically starts sifting characters into "Useless" or "Awesome" categories. Unfortunately, the former category was filled to the brim, but thankfully there were two characters in the Awesome column! (Usually there are none, so Monument 14 gets tons of points for this.)

The Useless characters were all focused on stupid stuff like boob grabbing, love triangles, boozing, and doing similar boring stuff. I guess it was interesting to see how they totally unraveled when thrown into the crazy situation, but it was mostly just frustrating. I spent a good part of the book mentally yelling at them to buckle down and properly inventory their supplies (which they don't do. Idiots).

And then there were kids. A lot of kids. And kids, I'm sorry to say, are a big no-no for me in post-apocalyptic books. Why? Because kids can't do much. If the author is realistic, then the kids will spend most of the time whining, crying, being annoying, doing stupid stuff, and being a liability. If the author isn't realistic, well, the kids can be cool then, but I have a hard time believing them.

Mostly Emmy Laybourne's kids were of the realistic but super duper annoying variety, which kinda sucked to read. Most "survival energies" and page time were directed toward managing the kids and making them feel happy and deluded.

But death rained down around them and destroyed life as we know it in a blizzard of natural disasters and chemical-induced psychoses, boils, and murderous rampages! And we couldn't talk about that because it would upset the kids. I was totally gypped in jaw-dropping end of the world descriptions.

Instead I got lisping kids and tantrums. Oh yay.

Though, to be fair, the kids were kinda cute sometimes and I did laugh out loud once or twice. It also was interesting from a psych standpoint to see how they managed the kids.

Tons of points for you!

Most of the book focuses on the Useless characters and their various interpersonal dramas, which sucked, BUT, in the background were two totally awesome characters.

Dean's younger brother is a science whiz/genius and while I had to stretch my imagination a little to believe his character, he was so cool I don't care. He was down to earth, calm, and he KNEW what needed to be done. He pushed aside his feelings of panic because, hey, the world is ending, and instead focused on how to make do with the supplies they had on hand. Thankfully it sounds like he's going to be a narrator in the next book, because this kid is made of win.

The other character I loved is Niko. Niko is one of the teens, a former boy scout, and he is also getting an invite to my post-apocalyptic survival bunker. The guy wanted them to inventory! He had a Plan of Action. He had strong protective instincts. Swoon!

The only thing that sucked about Niko, is apparently he's also a total weenie when it comes to interpersonal stuff. He's the only person there who has any clue what they should be doing to survive THE END OF THE WORLD and they're not listening to him because he's not cool (?!). So what does he do?

He goes to the sporting goods section of the superstore, grabs a weapon he knows full well how to use, flexes his muscles, and lays down the law because this is survival time baby, and we don't have time for silly high school games.

Oh wait, no, that's what I wanted to happen. What actually happened was Niko rolled over like a puppy, piddled on the floor a little, made an awkward and lame bid for Survival Class President, skulked in the background, and blushed because he's got a crush and that's totally more important. It was painful to read. 

So much potential

The set up for Monument 14 is pretty much a dream come true for me. Ok, I could maybe do without the megatsunamis, death, and destruction, but the idea of getting locked in a superstore? Totally awesome! I like setting things up and survival stories offer tons of opportunities to obsessively plan out how supplies can be used in creative ways and organized to last a long time. I know that might sound kind of boring, but for me, it's like the opportunity to color code my notes: the Stuff Dreams Are Made Of.

So I was pretty disappointed when I didn't get to spend much time on the survival aspects. Dean's brother and Niko handled that stuff, and they did it all pretty much off the page, so I didn't get to tag along. Mostly though, the situation was looked at through the eyes of the dumb teens who figured they had a ton of food and toys so they could kick back and enjoy without much thought. My inner-organizer was aghast at their lack of care.

Still, I was *IN* a superstore in a post-apocalyptic survival situation, and despite whatever problems I might have had with it, it was still pretty awesome.

My eyes were glued to the pages

I know I'm complaining a lot, and as much as I'm a character girl and I was disappointed with the characters, I could NOT stop reading. The situation was tense, and even if most of the action was focusing on the dramas inside the superstore, it was impossible to forget what was going on outside the store. The destruction and chemical-induced CRAZY Emmy Laybourne created was utterly chilling.

I kept flipping the pages wondering what was going to happen next. Even though the pacing wasn't very fast after the initial Big Event, I was fascinated with the day to day events as the kids dealt with their new situation. I may not have liked most of the characters, but I was invested in all of them.This is mostly where my stars are coming from.

Bottom line

The ending is a total cliffhanger, so heads up on that. Nothing is resolved and I will definitely read the sequel to find out what happens next. Though the sequel had better have the characters using their brains a little more, or at least deferring to the characters WITH brains, because I don't think my patience can last as long in the new setting (new setting? Yes, you'll have to read the book).

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Monument 14 that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

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  1. Too bad this was just okay for you. It doesn't sound like my type of book so I probably won't read it. But i'm curious about Dean's little brother.

    BTW...I gave my dad False Prince for Father's Day. He's almost done with it and really likes it. Getting all the False Prince converts I can!

  2. Glad to hear it was a page-turner despite being weak on characterisation. Do you think the gender thing was deliberate?
    It's interesting, my husband, knowing nothing about The Hunger Games, pictured Katniss as a boy at first.

  3. Love the review, but this one is probably not for me. I really dislike when nothing is resolved in a book. I don't like books that read like a long introduction.

  4. Oh no, not another cliffhanger!lol The last three out of four books I read have had major cliffhangers it's annoying... at the same time Glad it was a page turner despite the other downfalls it had, especially the one where they resolve nothing. I'm still excited to read it though. Great review!

  5. I was on the fence whether to read this or not but since I don't have much patience for useless characters, I should probably skipped this. Thanks for such an honest review. :)

  6. It seems like the book had it's ups and downs but the downs were a bit more frequent.
    I think it would drive me nuts if I couldn't tell if the narrator was a boy or a girl. I think that the two voices should be very distinct.

    Also, you're totally right about kids in the post-A setting, it's more realistic that they'll whine than anything else.

    too bad about Niko, he sounds like he had potential :P

  7. Wow...I adored this book! Isn't it funny how the things that some readers love about a book will be exactly what others may hate! Good thing though or we wouldn't have the wonderful variety and range of choice that we do! Great review...even though I don't completely agree!

  8. Wow, very nice review! Haha! I've never had a situation where I had to wonder, "Boy or Girl?", but that's definitely interesting! Never heard of this book, but I definitely enjoyed your review <3

    Vivian @ Vivaciously, Vivian

  9. Well, that stinks that we have to deal with whiny, boob-grabbing, useless, silly teenagers. I will say, however, that I'm interested in the intensity of the setting and situation, and very curious as to the new setting...

  10. Great review!! I'm looking forward to this one! I loved meeting Emmy with the Fierce Reads tour and I loved her in the 2007 Nancy Drew movie (she was the crazy file lady! lol) SO I'm really excited to read her foray into literature! :D

    Sierra @ Yearning to Read

  11. Hrm..yeah I can totally see myself talking back to this in a very frustrated manner and flinging it across the room several times. So, I'm going to skip this one. I'm a bit surprised that you read the entire thing and are willing to read the sequel despite your numerous issues.

  12. "The Breakfast Club: The Post-Apocalyptic Years"--I want to read this book. You know how we love Post-Apocalyptic books--well, this is a prime example of the kind of setting I wish we could get. With better characterization. I can't wait till you read Ashes, because the characters in there are intense. You'll love them--or love to hate them.

    Also: I'm bummed there's a sequel. I'm ready for a stand-alone. Heck, I'd even settle for a series that's already been finished. I feel like I'm constantly waiting for the next book in series A, B and Z to come out.

  13. I love post-apocalyptic books, so automatically this one sounded great to me, but the characters made it seem less appealing. I don't know if I could last the whole book watching the teens slowly kill themselves inside the superstore by not using their brains. I'm definitely up for some intense action and natural disasters though! Thanks so much for your honest review!

  14. I've always secretly wanted to be locked in a superstore like the kids in Monument 14 (although perhaps not with the kids in Monument 14). I'm not too excited about the destruction-of-the world part outside the store, but I'd totally be there with Dean's brother and Niko figuring out how to survive and using up the inventory of the office supplies section. Thanks for the great review!

  15. I enjoyed this book but I agree, I had no idea if I was dealing with a guy or a girl. This also happened to me with "This Is Not A Test" by Courtney Summers. Guy or a lesbian girl - I dunno!

  16. I'm so with you on finding the situation of surviving in a superstore awesome! True story: when I was younger I used to flip through catalogs of big superstores and plan out what I would do with all the items in the store if I ever had to live in one. Weird? Well yes, I was a pretty weird kid and still am, I guess, haha. But I feel like my weirdness would definitely suit me well in this situation :)

    So yes, a really great concept which I love, so it's really too bad that it didn't really deliver when it came to characters and the survival aspect. I will probably end up skipping this one simply because I am short on time, but that won't stop my inner-practical-organizer from continuing to plan out how I would deal in a post-apocalyptic situation!

  17. You know, even with the character pitfalls, I'm glad that this book was a pretty entertaining read for you! I tend to be really interested in the whole end-of-the-world type books, so I'm hoping I'll like Monument 14!

  18. I love that it features a cast of kids - the idea of this group in a crisis in a superstore is really cool! Been seeing reviews for this everywhere, so I can't wait to read it now!

    grace (Alaska Hunts)


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