You know what you would say to your loved ones if it was the last time you were going to see them, but what if you didn't know that time was the last time? In Monument 14, Emmy Laybourne takes a group of kids from a school bus (or two), throws them into a new, very dangerous world, and hopes they can survive.
Dean boards the high school bus and his younger brother, Alex, gets on the elementary and middle school bus. They head off on just another day of school and routine, but this isn't just another day. On their way to school a freak hailstorm takes out Dean's bus. The driver is dead, as are some kids who were trapped and beaten to death by hail, but the remaining kids know they have to get out. Through the heroics of an ancient bus driver, the surviving kids find themselves trapped in the Greenway department store. When the bus driver heads off to find help, she leaves the kids behind, not knowing just how alone they will soon be.
The hail storm was just the beginning of the after effects of a giant tsunami. When a major earthquake hits, the kids assume they made it through until a chemical spill from NORAD. The chemical reacts differently in people with different blood types, killing some, sterilizing others, and making another percent of the population go stark raving mad and murderous. The kids are lucky enough that the emergency gates on the store closed, sealing them inside, but what is on the outside wants to come in. While the kids have enough supplies to survive in the department store, there are scarier things out there than they can imagine safe inside the store.
First, let me just assure you that there are no zombies going on here. Homicidal psychopaths, yes. Zombies? No. I wanted to get that out in the open, because the description of the people affected by the chemical sounded to me a lot like zombies, but they aren't. They are alive, reasoning, thinking loons who want to tear everyone and everything apart they can get their hands on. Scarier than the zombies if you ask me! But nevertheless, no zombies here.
The story is quite interesting story, especially on the heels of a similar story I just read called No Safety in Numbers. They are very different books as this is apocalyptic and that was a terrorist plot that led to a quarantine, but there are still some similarities, like being trapped in a mall/department store. The thing that sets this story apart is the lack of adults. The older kids try to hold things together, but since they are children themselves, it doesn't always work. Some kids started dipping into the pharmacy, others gorged themselves on candy and ice cream. A couple of the older kids paired off, little kids wanted their mommies, and all of them grew more and more scared. It actually felt very real in regards to how the kids all reacted to the situation.
My one skepticism surrounded the chemical agent released from NORAD during the quake. I am not sure how a chemical could react so differently based on blood type, but I have learned not to question these things too much and to give fiction a little wiggle room for creative license. So I let that go and just enjoyed the story. It was written in first person narrative and sometimes the story felt very much like it was slipping out of the mouth of a young adult... perhaps a little too much at times? With this writing style comes a few choppy sentences or disjointed thoughts where I had to go back and reread to get the full gist of what was happening. But all in all, it wasn't distracting most of the time, so I was able to really enjoy the story. I found the story exciting and engaging and really want to know what happens next. I desperately hope this is the beginning of a series because otherwise Laybourne's "Got some 'splainin' to do!" The ending had a feeling of finality while still being abrupt and leaving you hanging. I don't know how she concluded the story that way, but she did, and it left me dying to know more!