MONUMENT 14 was not a book I exactly had on my radar. In fact, when I read the synopsis for this book, my first thought was of a kids’ show from New Zealand called The Tribe – kids orphaned by an apocalyptic event who mostly inhabit a mall in Wellington. But that’s beside the point. Besides, they dress up in funny outfits and face paint and are in a “tribe”. Still, beside the point. Emmy Laybourne’s book was not on my radar until a fateful tweet landed this one in my hands, and what can I say? I was pleasantly surprised.Following Dean, a young guy thrown into the apocalypse a few years into the future while on the school bus with several other kids, MONUMENT 14 follows – you guessed it – 14 kids living in Monument, Colorado as their bus crashes into a superstore in the middle of a hailstorm. Their driver leaves to find help and never returns, but things quickly begin to spiral out of control. Freak earthquakes, chemical weapons spills, choking black clouds of gas… I am going to admit it. My favorite part of this book was finding out what bad would befall these children. Giant hailstones! Massive earthquakes! Extreme sadness! Chemical weapons than alter minds and bodies! Okay, some of it was a bit unbelievable. The chemical weapons especially. But Laybourne totally packs a punch with the bad things that happens to these kids, and that is not the least of it.I enjoyed the honesty of this book. From Dean’s voice, which sounded almost like an ADHD-addled kid (very boy-esque), to the mental state of victims of trauma, it felt very real. At the same time, this was an issue I had. The book focused too much on the problems these kids experienced, from finding out how to survive in this brave new world to simple stuff. We find out about lice, making breakfast daily, tearing down walls. I wanted more plot, more suspense, more intrigue and action. Or zombies. Zombies would have been nice, or at least more of the last 100 pages. One of my fave young adult books is LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer. While it comes close to matching the compelling nature of Pfeffer’s work, a post-apocalyptic story about a family trying to survive the aftermath of a catastrophic worldwide disaster, it doesn’t match the level. There is something off about this, but don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. It will just take a certain reader who enjoys the nuances of survival and doesn’t need a plot to drag them through. There is a story here, but it’s slow building, laden with tiny details about life and living and children and teens and the world.My suggestion? Check this one out, but only if you go into it not expecting extreme action wall to wall, or zombies like I might have kind of thought looking at the cover… There are pseudo-zombies, but they’re not eating brains. Think the Rage virus from 28 Days Later, except with more bloody boils and sterility issues.