Series: Monument 14 #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends (6.5.2012)
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Format: eARC, 294 pages
Buy on Amazon
Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.
Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.
But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.
Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.
In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.
The beginning started out pretty good, with some (fairly) well done 2nd person. The first paragraph (as seen above in the synopsis) was very catching, with the exception of using ‘did’ instead of ‘done’ – but I let that one slide. Note to self: in the future, if there are grammar errors in the freaking synopsis, don’t bother with reading the book.
I just want to say, before I get any farther, that I understand that this is a proof. Really, I do. But some things just can’t be fixed by editing.
Like I said, the prose in this was a monumental disaster (ha). The writing was terribly juvenile, and the way things were worded was horrific. I felt like I was reading something a twelve-year-old wrote.
Let’s look at a few things here:
1. I flew sideways but hit, somehow, the roof of the bus. Then I understood that our bus had turned onto its side.
2. Starting a chapter with this sentence: I was sleepy was the thing.
3. There was a lot of shouting and people helping one another over the battered seats and slipping on the hail on the floor, slipping because everything was sticky, now with the blood of the kids who had been crushed and Mr. Reed and maybe also motor oil or gasoline, maybe…but, see, I was so warm and sleepy.
5. The fact that the author felt the need to point EVERYTHING out to the reader, as if we all have soup for brains, was mildly insulting. Repeating things, saying ‘now remember’ after it’s already been explained once, ‘you see,’ and spelling things out when we could already have deducted it for ourselves. Such as: When Dean was talking about Brayden, explaining how he used to spit in his hair to ‘style’ it and all the crappy things the dude has ever done to him, he finishes with this: What I’m saying is – me and Brayden – we were not friends. Naw, really? I thought you guys were biffles!
He was my brother. I should be the one comforting him. Only I had attacked him, you see.
Yes, we know. We were there.
6. After reading this, I may make an official hate statement against the word ‘like.’ It was so vastly overused that I couldn’t even concentrate on what was happening anymore because I felt as if the word was physically popping out and slapping me across the face. I counted 70 likes used in the 36% of the book I managed to get through. SEVENTY. That’s just the ones I actually caught, and doesn’t include instances where it was used as liking something (i.e. I like food). There are plenty of ways to compare two things without using ‘like.’ PLENTY. And when it’s inserted in the middle of a damn sentence (you know when you’re watching a presentation of a high school student and they say ‘like’ or ‘um’ every other word….yeah, that’s this book): ‘They made, like, a million dollars’ or ‘Perfectly formed but, like, knee high‘ or ‘when I was, like, seven‘ or ‘The most we could carry was, like, ten rolls.’ ARGGHHHHH!!!! What’s wrong with ‘about’ or ‘around?’
I liked Max. I like a kid who holds nothing back. How ’bout respect instead of like? Then we’re not being redundantly redundant.
The world building was lacking as well. What exactly is NORAD? Some company, but what do they do? What year is it? And in the beginning it’s mentioned that riding the bus is required by law. ‘Before the gas shortage.’ If there’s a shortage of gas, WHY THE HELL WOULD IT BE A LAW TO RIDE A BUS? Which is a major gas guzzler?! Wouldn’t more people have to walk or ride a bike? This just didn’t make sense to me.
What exactly is a minitab? I gathered from context that it’s a high tech TV, but it wasn’t ever explained. Even a short description would have been nice. Plus the explanation of: All of the files – photos, movies, emails, everything – were all kept in big servers ‘up in the sky.’ Really?
There were too many things that didn’t make sense, and some were just downright silly:
1. How would hail come out of the sky with twigs and rocks already in it? Cuz, you know, there’s trees and boulders up in the clouds??
2. When the chemical spill happened and the air was toxic, they seal up the front gates/windows of the store with wool blankets. Wool. Blankets. Totally air proof.
3. They couldn’t figure out how to shut off the AC (and really, what kind of HVAC controls are so complicated that there isn’t an off switch?)…so they get industrial air masks from the hardware aisle and go up to the roof to manually block the vents. Why didn’t they just….with the masks….and the….ugh, nevermind.
4. A wave half a mile tall…moving at six hundred miles per hour? Six hundred? Do you know how fast that is? A wave that tall would NOT be able to move that fast.
5. Some guy comes banging angrily on the gates to the store, screaming and cursing, and Dean starts marching and singing ‘Yankee Doodle.’ Huh?
Speaking of Dean; he was a flat and uninspiring lead. In the middle of a catastrophe, Dean wants to just lay down and die. Basically. He keeps mentioning how sleepy he is and how all he wants to do is sleep and how sleep is so inviting and sleep, sleep, sleep. Oh, for the love of kittens! Grow some cajones there, dude.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a few bad words in a young adult book, as long as it’s not excessive. Actually, when the situation is dire and desperate, it adds realism to the scene. But when you say ‘effin’ or ‘f—‘ instead of the actual word, it just makes you look juvenile.
Brayden was still an a-hole and a bully. He’s an ASSHOLE. It’s okay to say it, really. We know he is.
“Open the f— gate! Open it! Open, open, open!”
“Let me in!” the man shouted. “By the hair of my f— chin, let me in or I’ll huff and I’ll blow your effin’ Greenway down!”
We’re not even going to examine the absurdity of the statement. But what angry desperate lunatic would think to sensor his language? It’s not realistic.
And let’s not even talk about the sad attempt at humor. Okay, I lied. Let’s.
While trying to seal off the air vent on the roof by jumping on it: We jumped and together the three of us started to make a dent in it. (Pun unintentional, I promise.)
I still had some weird stuff happening in my body. What I wanted was Astrid. She looked so good to me I wanted to take her, in a dark and terrible way. (um, creepy) Pardon my bloodlust. It’s just a little something they whipped up over at NORAD.
For the record, they washed the kids with bottled spring water in a big kiddy pool. Then they put the contaminated clothes in the pool and covered the whole thing with plastic sheeting. Vicious (I think she means viscous? Because I’ve never seen water attack anybody. Unless perhaps she’s talking about the effect the chemical has, then it’s just badly worded), psychedelically destructive, blister-inducing water, all sealed up in a kiddy pool. Pretty brilliant, actually.
“What? You don’t fight? You too ‘Zen master’? You too ‘Brave Hunter Man’? What is it with you?”
“I just want to be prepared,” Niko said. “So that-“
“Oh my God!” Brayden yelled. “Oh my G-A-double dog-D, I just got it.” He looked triumphant. Menacing and victorious. “You’re a Boy Scout! A Boy Scout! Aren’t you?”
Niko shrugged. Brushed his hair out of his eyes. “Yes. I am a Boy Scout,” Niko said. Brayden doubled over in violent laughter.
All in all, the awful prose was too much for me to bear, because being the grammar Nazi that I am, I was too busy focusing on that rather than the story. Actually, the premise is intriguing just because it does remind me of The Mist…complete with a scene in the loading bay, a character leaving in the beginning and not coming back right away, and a religious fanatic. Even though said fanatic was pathetic and too similar to a parrot, only able to say ‘THAT’S A SIN!!’ to EVERYTHING, so in the end, just a sad excuse for an actual religious fanatic. But anyway. I did think the chemical attack on blood types was interesting (as long as I don’t think too much into the how’s and why’s).
Will I read the next book? Doubtful. I might try it to see if the writing has improved. But it’s not likely.