How can you not be interested in a story where what appears to be a normal, rather mundane day turns into a struggle to survive with the world literally falling apart around you? There are all kinds of crazy things going on in the beginning of this book: deadly, destructive hailstorms, exploding cars, and buses ramming into supermarkets, and I was immediately pulled into the story. Throw into the mix some nuclear disasters and megatsunamis, and I was hooked (yeah, survival of the fittest, baby!). It sounds like a great premise for a survival dystopian novel, right? However, while the book was quite enjoyable and entertaining, it lacked a few things that made it memorable for me.
With the beginning of the story starting out action-heavy and rather dramatic, I expected a similar kind of tone/pacing for the rest of the story. However, once the children get confined to the supermarket, things really decelerate and cool down. Survival for them comes in the form of structure and order, where everyone has chores they need to carry out, such as cooking, sorting supermarket items, and taking stock inventory. While it was impressive to read about how these teenagers and children were able to care for themselves, especially in such trying times, it lacked entertainment value. The only intense moments were intermittent fights over who would be leader of their group or relationship drama between a few of the high schoolers. These moments helped the story progress, but the slow pacing kept me from being fully invested. My favorite moments were when they were able to get information about the outside world, but unfortunately those moments were few and far between. I mean, the world is being destroyed, I want to know what is going on! Even at the end of the book, I was uncertain of what the current situation was and the ramifications of all the disasters, but hopefully those things will be further explained in the next installment.
I found the characters to be a tad superficial. Dean was a decent male lead, and I like how the story is told from his perspective (yay for male POV!), but I found his overall emotions to be rather dull and listless. There were many times where he would be distressed or tensions would run high, but I never really felt any kind of heightened emotions myself. Also, some of the characters just annoyed and/or disturbed me. Two of the older teenagers, who should be role models for the younger children, spend most of their time either high or drunk, Dean peeps on his crush and her boyfriend getting physical with one another (the boyfriend naming her boobs = super distasteful), and one girl is so desperate for male attention she usually is flashing some kind of feminine body part. While personality flaws like this worked well with creating dramatic moments and establishing character dynamics, they did not make me particularly care for any of the characters. To me, the characters were ordinary and… just there. I had a pretty strong disconnect to almost all of them throughout the novel, and I think they should have been fleshed out a bit more.
One other aspect to the book I want to mention is the writing style. While it did not bother me, I can see how it would grate on others. Laybourne has a very simplistic prose, and she mainly uses basic sentence structures and does not delve too far into emotions and explicit details. This is in no means a bad thing, and I personally attributed her prose style to the fact that the story is told from a teenage male’s perspective, but some people could be very turned off to this kind of writing style.
Overall, while this book is not perfect, I did enjoy it. The ending definitely saved the book for me, and it left room for a lot of potential in the sequel. I liked the idea Laybourne has about children surviving the end of the world (that actually sounds terrible of me to say ><), and while she could have expanded on the story and made it more action-packed/dramatic, Monument 14 is nevertheless an entertaining read and I am excited to see where the second book takes us.