|Feiwel & Friends|
By Emmy Laybourne
There is no denying that high school changes people. Unexpected friendships form and some friendships end altogether—perhaps this is because high school seems to challenge a person’s character, and some people aren’t equal to the challenge. Bookish protagonist, Dean has no idea when he boards the bus for school one average morning that the world will change and he will be stranded with 14 kids from his school district in a Greenway department store. Tsunamis, hailstorms, earthquakes, and now something far more sinister has changed the United States forever. How will Dean meet this challenge, and who will he befriend in this unlikely mix of characters?
The novel’s killer first chapter is followed by a beginning reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, although the plot quickly evolves into something far more contemporary. Critics might think being stranded in a giant department store makes the struggle too easy for the characters, but what it actually does is focus the conflicts on the characters themselves, their interactions, and their inner turmoil. It also reveals how simply surviving isn’t enough; we all crave connection to family and friends. Dean’s simple voice (in easy to read, short chapters) reveals a sharp, dry wit that appears when least expected, and readers will chuckle despite the horror that surrounds the characters. On that note, the author has an uncanny sense of timing and knows exactly when comic relief is needed. Not only do Dean’s observations of the other characters create humor, but the voices of the small children, specifically Batiste and Max, make me laugh out loud! Humor aside, however, this narrative has a dark, disturbing edge and a startling twist at the end. Here’s hoping Monument 14 evolves into a new brilliant series that I will be following!