Genre: Coming of Age
Author(s): Emmy Laybourne
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Release Date: 06/05/2012
Hard cover Price: $16.99
Reading Level: 13-17
Other Choices: The Lord of the Flies, Struck, After the Snow, Dust Girl: The American Fairy Trilogy, Book 1, Beauty Queens
Synopsis: Suspenseful survival story will grip teen readers.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Monument 14 is a cleverly constructed suspense novel of survival that's entirely set in a big-box superstore in the wake of a somewhat far-fetched catastrophe. There's some vividly depicted violence, including a deadly shooting, a bloody fistfight, and the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl that some characters recount but the narrator doesn't witness himself. An older boy fondles an older girl's bare breasts. Some of the older teen characters drink heavily one night and then regret their actions the next morning. One character raids the store's pharmacy for painkillers and steroids and withdraws into a nearly perpetual pill-and-booze haze. Cursing is infrequent, and the strongest curses are written with dashes and other elisions.
- Families can talk about how having Monument 14 entirely set in one place adds to the suspense and drama. What effect did it have on you as a reader?
- How does Monument 14 compare with other post-disaster stories you've read or movies you've seen?
- If you had complete access to a superstore like Greenway, what items would you choose for yourself? How would you choose what you really needed to survive, rather than just what you would enjoy?
What's the story?
A series of natural and man-made catastrophes traps a busload of 14 students, ranging from elementary school to high school, inside a Greenway super-store in Monument, Colo. Over the next 12 days, they must learn to work together in order to survive poisonous gas, violent visitors, and their own weaknesses and fears.
Is it any good?
Although its set-up is a tad far-fetched, MONUMENT 14 is a clever and compelling one-set suspense novel. The characters are well defined, even the grade schoolers. Author Emmy Laybourne finds ways to keep the tension high throughout and devises an ending that feels both realistic and satisfying.
The Good Stuff
Messages: Monument 14 is a novel of survival in extraordinary circumstances. The characters have to learn to put aside their own fears and selfish concerns in order to work together for their mutual benefit.
Educational Value: In Monument 14, the setup of the central predicament requires a highly unlikely number of simultaneous catastrophes. But once the main conflict is established, events proceed logically, and the author presents a convincing portrait of what it might be like to survive in an abandoned big-box store.
Role Models: Even at the beginning of Monument 14, Dean, the narrator, is a sensitive, well-meaning kid who looks after his younger brother, Alex, and the other junior high and grade school kids. Under pressure, he sometimes backslides into thoughtless behavior, but by the end of the novel, he's ready to face the uncertain future head-on and assume responsibility for himself and others.
What to watch out for
Violence Vividly depicted scenes of violence include a bloody fistfight among the older boys, an episode of uncontrolled rage caused by weapons-grade chemicals, and a shooting that leaves one character dead and another grievously wounded. Some characters recount an interrupted sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl, but the narator doesn't witness it himself.
Sex: Even in their dire situation, sex is on the minds of Dean and the other older characters in Monument 14. Dean has a crush on blond cheerleader Astrid and spies on her as she allows a high school boy to fondle her bare breasts. Fourteen-year-old Sahalia dress and acts provocatively around the older boys. Another character is revealed to be pregnant.
Language: Infrequent use of profanity, including "son of a bitch," "hell," "damn," and "d--k." Stronger words are even rarer and are written in the text with elisions, such as "a-hole" and "F____!"
Consumerism: Given the book's setting -- a big-box store filled with products -- it's not surprising that many brands are mentioned, including Advil, Popsicle, Barbie, MickeyD's, KitchenAid, and more. But none is particularly endorsed, and the author usually chooses fake names ("Pizza Stop") or generic phrases when there's no need for specificity.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Because of their high level of stress and their access to a free, nearly unlimited supply of alcohol, Dean and some of the other older characters in Monument 14 drink heavily one night and then regret their actions the next morning. One character raids the store's pharmacy for painkillers and steroids and withdraws into a nearly perpetual pill-and-booze haze.