The opening scene of Monument 14 is seriously intense. It opens with Dean and Alex running for their respective buses. Normal morning of avoiding notice on the bus (yeah, I remember doing that). Then, BAM, hail the size of like cats and dogs is slamming down, and their bus is crashing. Then death and explosions and a bus driving through the glass doors of a grocery store. In a post-apocalyptic (even more than a dystopia), you need to be prepared for MASSIVE amounts of death. You definitely get it here.
What went wrong in the world to cause all these crazies? Just about everything. A super volcano explodes and sets off a tsunami that takes out the east coast. All of this craziness means the environment has gone totally WHACK, so enter hailstorms and other craziness all over the country. In case that wasn't enough, the weather loosed chemicals the government probably shouldn't have created that do seriously creepy (and varying) shit to people who encounter them. Youch. I thought that was maybe a BIT much. Anyway, very The Day After Tomorrow.
I really liked Dean as a narrator. Laybourne did a great job with him I thought. He definitely felt like a male character to me. He is smart, although not brilliant, and desperate to fit in. Being stuck in the Greenway with the kind of guys who pick on him and the popular senior he's been crushing on is a combination nightmare and dream.
There's a sense of unreality to the kids in a store plot line. There's something vaguely romantic about it, right? Freed of adults and able to eat candy for dinner or ice cream for breakfast. The reason it happens over and over again in books is that it makes a really good setting. It's an isolated little universe, and the characters put there have to redefine themselves in the context of this new group, as seen in The Breakfast Club.
Although they have their issues (drugs, overly-flirtatious thirteen year old girls, fistfights, lack of personal space, a couple bratty kids, etc.), these kids are remarkably resourceful, and do an amazing job setting up their own little community within the story. Most of their decisions were wise. They worked most things out, and I loved that they did so without coercion. They ran a better government than the real world. It was amazing that they did so well with so many little ones to take care of.
The kids also have to struggle with trusting one another. Only a couple of them were actually real life friends. Now, the fourteen of them have to learn to at least tolerate one another. They also have to decide whether they can trust anyone else. Since they have so many resources, can they afford to let people in?
I have to mention quickly two plot holes that irked me. First, why did the bus driver leave the kids in the grocery store alone?!?! I mean, I know why, but I was yelling at my computer when she did that. I mean, it was freaking hailing and she's all like 'Peace out!' Dude, if I were her, I would wait and try to check the radios or whatever in the store (like the kids were smart enough to do) without going outside. That just felt too much like it happened to move the plot along. The other thing that really annoyed me was that none of the kids mourned for any of their classmates that DIED IN FRONT OF THEM ON THE BUS. Really kids? Josie is in shock for a couple of days over her friend's death, but then never mentions her again. WTF is that?
Also, having read this so far in advance, which is not my usual style, I've had the chance to read some other reviews on Monument 14. What bothered a lot of reviewers was the portrayal of women in the book. Looking back, I definitely agree that the three women of an age to be sexual are not portrayed well at all. They did seem like fairly believable characters, but it would be nice to see a more positive attitude towards females in the next book. I think the reason I wasn't up in arms about this was that the guys don't really come off so well, either. Most of the characters are varying degrees of not awesome people.
Despite those issues, I freaking ate up all of the drama and disaster in here. Monument 14 is a fast, action-packed ride, and I will most definitely be reading more. Then ending suggests more crazy drama is in store, although I'm not really sure how I feel about where it's going. Most people loved the ending, but one of my least favorite plot points happened. Haha. It IS intense, though.