“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...only, if it's the last you'll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you'd stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.” (Laybourne 1) All is quiet on this tranquil morning in September 2024, as Dean Grieder and his younger brother Alex board their school buses in Monument, CO. The normal, yet rowdy atmosphere of the school bus is interrupted only by a torrential and violent hailstorm, and before the students know it, their bus has been driven into a nearby Greenway superstore and they are trapped. Fourteen kids of varying ages from five to eighteen need to learn how to survive together. And it gets much, much worse. Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14 shows what happens when a group of children from many different backgrounds, of many ages, with many different opinions on the world around them are forced to cooperate and make the best of their situation.
The novel is told from the point of view of Dean Grieder, a high school junior who becomes trapped in the Greenway with a plethora of fellow students. Just a few of those trapped with him are from the antisocial but street-smart Niko, religious tattletale Batiste, twin kindergartners Henry and Caroline, and Astrid Heyman, the blonde-tressed queen bee of Dean’s dreams. After the initial hailstorm, it is revealed that a gaseous chemical agent has been released into the air near Monument, and the gas affects people with different blood types in different and dangerous ways. The story follows the children and teens electing a leader, sorting out the little things like sleeping arrangements and bigger things like the water supply. They seem isolated, their only connection to the outside world being an outdated radio and the type-O affected crazies trying to gain entry to the Greenway.
Not wishing to spoil the ending, but the book ends in an abrupt but powerful cliffhanger, perfectly setting up a sequel; Monument 14: Sky on Fire, which in turn demands a completion to the trilogy that is still in the works. Returning to the original novel, though, it was difficult to find many aspects that could have been better. Whilst other reviewers critique the characters as too stereotypical, it is exactly the opposite. Aside from one or two of the younger children, there isn't a flat character in sight. Each student is multifaceted, with unexpected feelings, opinions, and characteristics. For example, the popular jock Jake; somewhat promiscuous eighth grader Sahalia; and Max, the kid from the wrong side of the tracks; all are not what they seem to be. Monument 14 is a light work of dystopian fiction suitable for anyone ages thirteen and over. Teens and adults alike will enjoy Laybourne’s style of mixing bleak tragedy with raw emotion and light humor. Monument 14 is a rollercoaster ride of plot twists, surprising discoverirs, and sudden bursts of togetherness that will satisfy any reader searching for a new dystopian novel to flip through.