My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When the world turns upside down, 14 children find themselves trapped in their local superstore. Things outside are dangerous. Terrifying. Mammoth sized hail, earthquakes and – monsters.
Dean, one of the children, decides to keep a diary. This is that diary.
The first in a series, Monument 14 is problematic. It’s a superb, superb premise. Who hasn’t been round one of those huge stores, full of everything, and thought that they could live in one of these places? It’s a premise similar to that explored by Charlie Higson in The Enemy although that spins off quite swiftly into a viciously dark dystopia. And I think that maybe that’s where Monument 14 struggled for me.
The problem of isolating your characters in a safe house is that you’ve done that. You’ve isolated your characters in a safe house and, as such, removed a lot of the fear and tension of a novel that should be burning with it. And this book does burn with tension but only when we acknowledge the outside world. During those moments it’s brilliant. But tthere’s only so much store domesticity that I can cope with reading and when it gets to the fifteenth discussion of what the kids are eating, then I start to switch off.
But maybe that’s as a result of the narrator and I have to say that Laybourne does catch that young teenage voice really well. She writes that sort of skippy hormonal narrative brilliantly and very much catches the voice of her narrator. I really enjoyed her portrayal of the little kids as well and Caroline and Henry are adorable.
The thing is, I’m just not sure that the teenage side of this story, the melodrama and the awkward love triangles, actually *is* the story. For me, the story is on the edges of the superstore, on those moments when you look out the windows, or see a shadow beyond the warehouse door that stays there for just that little bit too long, and the moments when you realise that the super store might not save you – it might actually get you killed. That’s what I wanted from this, I think, and that’s not quite what it is.