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4.0 out of 5 stars Chilling Survival Story, June 5, 2012
This review is from: Monument 14 (Monument 14 Series) (Hardcover)
This near future, disaster novel presents a chilling picture of survival. The survivors of two school buses take shelter in a superstore as a series of disasters - both natural and man-made - devastate their city. The narrator is Dean. He is a junior in high school and a social outcast who is bullied by some of the jocks including one who is stranded with him. He is thoughtful and steady. Along with him are thirteen other children - five other high school students, two eighth graders including his brother Alex, and six small children.

It starts out as an ordinary school day but, even before they get to school. things go terribly wrong. A sudden fierce hailstorm with huge hail starts. The buses are damaged but the driver of the elementary bus manages to drive into the entry of the superstore, let off her riders, and return to rescue the survivors on Dean's bus. The driver then leaves the fourteen children to go off to find help. She isn't gone long when a major earthquake strikes. The riot gates come down and trap the kids in the store. Fortunately, the store doesn't lose electricity or air conditioning even though the Net has gone down leaving the kids in a communications blackout.

They find their way to the roof just in time to see an ominous cloud in the distance. NORAD, now working in chemical weapons, has had a containment breech and the chemicals are on their way. The chemicals have different effects based on the blood types of the kids. Type Os like Dean and his crush Astrid become very violent and filled with rage. Type As like Nico develop blisters all over exposed skin. Type Bs become paranoid and see hallucinations. Type Bs are seemingly unaffected. They have to find a way to seal themselves in.

Luckily, Nico is a former Boy Scout who has lots of survival skills and Dean's brother Alex is a electronic genius. They do find a way to protect the group. It was interesting watching how the various kids reacted to all the tragedies. The big football star tries to block out everything with drugs and alcohol. His devoted follower who is the one who has bullied Dean the most follows along their too. Astrid leaves the group and hides in other parts of the store because she is ashamed of her actions when the chemicals hit. Each character has to cope in his or her own way. Dean and Josie take over caring for the younger children while Nico and Alex focus on the groups survival.

I thought the middle of this book was a little slow as it bogged down for me in all the details of survival but it picked up quickly when the kids let two men in the store and found out that there were evacuations of the area taking place from Denver. They just had to figure out how to get there.

This story had lots of gritty details and lots of perilous situations. I think adventure lovers would enjoy it. Because the pacing got slow, I started asking myself some questions. How did NORAD get involved with chemical weapons? I mostly know NORAD for its annual Santa tracker and know that its mission is aerospace warning and aerospace control. Twelve years in the future all students are required to ride the bus to school because of fuel shortages? The Net goes down because three towers on the East Coast are destroyed by a massive tsunami? Readers who ignore these questions can get swept up in the adventures of the kids.

Just a note for people who hate cliffhanger endings, this book has at best an unresolved ending. If a sequel isn't in the works, it should be!
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K. M. Martin
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Location: MN USA

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