Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne reminded me a bit of a story I loved as a child, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler . I don’t remember all the details of that story, but the part I loved was how the kids were living in the museum at night having the run of the place. In this story, a mixed group of elementary, middle and high school students take refuge from a monster hailstorm in a Colorado superstore. The hailstorm is just part of a chain reaction in an environmental disaster. An exploding volcano caused a megatsunami that has triggered severe weather conditions across the U.S. The adult bus driver who got the kids into the store safely has gone to find help advising the students to not let anyone in the store. At first being barricaded inside a megastore doesn’t seem so bad, there is plenty of food, toys, and clothes available that make everything seem like an entertaining adventure. However, in Colorado, where the kids are, these storms have caused the leak of chemical warfare agents from nearby NORAD. The chemicals affect people of each blood type differently and suddenly the danger of the situation is elevated.
For the main character Dean, life inside the superstore initially bears a close resemblance to high school. Dean is not one of the popular kids, his demeanor is calm and he loves to write. He is the opposite of Jake, the popular and handsome high school quarterback who just happens to be in a relationship with captain of the swim team, Astrid, that Dean has a huge crush on. Brayden is also an athlete and spoiled, Josie is a hippie-activist, and lastly there’s introverted Niko. The two junior high kids are Dean’s younger brother Alex and Sahalia, a budding Lolita. Each of the elementary kids also has a strong personality which was unexpected. There’s bratty Chloe, sanctimonious Batiste, Ulysses who only speaks Spanish, adorable twins Henry and Caroline and finally Max, eight going on forty with the funniest salacious stories. Jake and Brayden pick on Dean just like they do in school, Chloe’s more worried about getting her way than the world falling apart, Dean and Alex fight like brothers do and Sahalia is playing a dangerous game trying to fit in with the high schoolers.
In addition to dealing with each other, the kids have to cope with people trying to get into their safe haven, wondering whether their families are alive and substance abuse. When I was in high school I remember reading Satre’s No Exit and I have found myself in a number of situations in life when hell is being trapped with people you don’t like, but the relationships that form between this group trying to survive the disaster is the heart of the story.