What did we learn from last week’s book review of Quarantine? That bio weapons are a bad thing, schools without teachers are dangerous places, and if you’re a boy whose only sibling is a younger brother and you live in Colorado—you’ve got trouble. Emmy Laybourne’s first novel, Monument 14, shares a number of similarities with Quarantine: both books had brothers trapped together with other students and not an adult in sight. The setting is still Colorado, but this time in the town of Monument. And, as natural disasters inevitably lead to manmade ones, bio weapons make an appearance. In Monument 14, everybody in town is affected as chemicals are released into the air but, in an interesting twist, the symptoms vary depending upon one’s blood type.
The book is written in the first person narrative of Dean, high school junior, who is running to catch the bus for school. Unfortunately, he never gets there. A killer hailstorm suddenly rains down, damaging the bus so severely that it crashes, killing the driver and many students. The remaining six are rescued by Mrs. Wooly, another bus driver who, having just driven through a superstore to deposit the elementary and middle school children in her care, does the same with the high schoolers. Leaving the older students in charge of the younger kids, Mrs. Wooly sets out on foot for the hospital to get help and . . . she never returns (tell me you didn’t see that coming!). Left alone to fend for themselves, as least these kids have a superstore’s worth of supplies and food. But it’s no easy time. The younger children have to be consoled and looked after, the building has to be sealed to keep the chemicals from seeping in, and the store must be protected from the infected individuals outside. With the “Network” down and information only available through an old fashioned television, the students are desperate to see what remains of their town and parents. How and who gets out ends the first in this series and sets up the next book.
Monument 14 has less gore and violence, but more character development than Quarantine. While there is a surprising amount of action among fourteen kids trapped in a large store, it is not on the same level as Quarantine. However, the first person narrative and the significantly smaller group give the characters of Monument 14 more distinct personalities. Recommended for fans of survival stories and realistic fiction like Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It.