Emmy Laybourne – Monument 14

Review by Ms Whitfield

Books about kids surviving without adults after an apocalypse are nothing new – when I was a kid it was always post-nuclear (The Firebrats series was really popular, as was Brother In The Land), but disasters and technology as well as the means of survival have evolved since then. I was interested to see what Laybourne’s take on the situation would be in Monument 14.

Set in a town about 50 miles south of Denver, in the near future, fourteen kids of varying ages – from very little though to older teens – are trapped in a shopping centre when the outside world and society completely collapse. Rather than nuclear fallout, the causes of the disaster are natural at first – a mega tsunami that takes out the east coast of America followed by some destructive weather patterns – but then this knocks out all the technology and sets off some very sinister chemical weapons…

A bit like the New Zealand TV show The Tribe (which you can find on YouTube if you want to laugh at the bizarre make-up), the fact that Dean, Alex, Astrid and the rest are shut up in a shopping centre means that they’ve got enough food as well as access to power sources, so they don’t starve or freeze. But there are loads of other conflicts for them to face – fights over leadership, relationships, getting into the shops’ alcohol and drugs stores, the needs of the little kids, the effects of the chemicals, and so on. This makes it really gripping and interesting. Lead character, Dean, is intelligent and tells it like it is without being patronising. You get a real sense of the conflict, confusion and danger that the characters are facing in this new world.

Do they all survive? Well, that would be telling. But there are two more books in the series, and they are apparently making a film of it too, so that might give you a clue.

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