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Monument 14

Review

Monument 14

Dean, a high school junior, will always have regrets about the things he neglects to do that morning when his mother yells that he is going to miss the bus if he doesn't get going. He doesn’t stop to tell her he loves her or take the time to thank her for being a wonderful mom. Instead, he races for the bus, not knowing it most likely will be the last time he will ever see his mother.

"MONUMENT 14 is a fast-paced, intriguing page-turner of a post-apocalyptic adventure story peopled with realistic characters... Author Emmy Laybourne throws the reader some unexpected plot twists and leaves us expecting (hoping!) that the cliff-dangling ending promises a sequel."

Alex, Dean's younger brother, rides the elementary/middle school bus, driven by tough-talking Mrs. Wooly, while the high school bus driver happens to be the "entirely forgettable" Mr. Reed. Since, in this near-future setting, it is now the law for all students to ride buses to school, Dean's bus carries passengers including football hero Jake, champion swim team diver (and Dean's dream girl) Astrid, activist Josie, bully loudmouth Brayden, and "Brave Hunter Man" Niko. As Dean tries to power up his minitablet, he suddenly hears the clunking of hail on the school bus roof. The sound grows louder until the roof dents and the windshield cracks.

Dean’s bus ends up in the parking lot of the Greenway chain superstore, sliding on ice and spinning until they hit a post. It flips onto its side as hail continues to bombard them. Dean can't believe his eyes as he watches Mrs. Wooly's bus drive right on into the Greenway, smashing through the glass doors. Relief fills him as he realizes that Alex is probably now safe inside the big building. Then he notices the condition of his fellow passengers. Mr. Reed, pinned behind the steering wheel, is bleeding and whimpering…until he goes silent. Josie is covered in blood, but it's not hers. Even as Dean categorizes the injured and the dead, Brayden tries to use his minitab to shoot video of the suffering passengers. However, as Dean noticed earlier, none of the kids' minitabs work. The Network, which is supposedly infallible, is down, which is disorienting and frightening. 

This seems like the very least they immediately have to worry about, though; it's plain to Dean that they are all going to die, bludgeoned by the gigantic hailstones. Then he hears a surreal sound: the beep-beep-beep backup signal of the elementary/middle school bus carrying an unlikely savior. Mrs. Wooly manages to get the six surviving high schoolers into the Greenway building, where they join the passengers from Mrs. Wooly's bus, including Alex and another eighth-grader as well as six smaller children.

Josie is acting strangely, staring blankly and not responding when the others try talking to her. Mrs. Wooly decides she must go to the emergency room for help. She leaves the 14 teens and children under the leadership of Jake, warning them to stay together and not to let anyone into the store. Meanwhile, Astrid volunteers to bake pizzas for the group while Dean mans the slushie machine. He discovers, to his chagrin, that even during a nightmare disaster, he still cannot actually make conversation with the girl of his dreams. 

Later, as time goes by and Mrs. Wooly doesn't return, Alex display his genius in all things technological by finding an old-fashioned flat-screen TV (everyone now uses "bigtabs" for TV) and rigging it up. What they hear on the news sickens Dean. The hailstorm, it seems, was just a tiny domino in a cascading event of terrible calamities that include a horrendous chemical weapon spill and a mega tsunami that wipes out the Eastern Coast of the United States. It appears their world has ended, and they must make a life within the safety of the store in order to survive. But there are complications galore.

MONUMENT 14 is a fast-paced, intriguing page-turner of a post-apocalyptic adventure story peopled with realistic characters, including the likable and self-effacing Dean. Author Emmy Laybourne throws the reader some unexpected plot twists and leaves us expecting (hoping!) that the cliff-dangling ending promises a sequel.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on August 18, 2012

Monument 14
by Emmy Laybourne