Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.
In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.
I don’t know how I feel about this book. On one hand, I’m still thinking about it and I liked the *idea* of these kids trapped with nothing but themselves and a giant superstore to depend on. On the other hand, some of the choices the kids made had me almost pulling my hair out in frustration. Yeah, they’re kids. Kids make stupid choices upon occasion. But… but but but I was making crazy eyes at them and wondering how in the world things were going to work out in the end. Come to think of it, maybe that’s part of my problem. This book doesn’t have a concrete ending. This is the first part of their story and I wanted more from it.
Stylistically speaking, I had a few issues. The first was that curse words are blanked out (F—- you, bull s—-, etc). I’m of two minds on this. First, it took me out of the story whenever that came up. I kept imagining a crazy, angry person shouting “Eff you, you little esses!” and then I’d giggle. Which was totally not the response the author was going for, I’m sure. Then I thought, maybe we’re just going for a clean book. One that would appeal to everyone, even the people who don’t curse. (Wait. People who don’t curse? Clearly, that’s not me!) Except… except except except, there are several references to sexual shenanigans that seemed a whole lot more risqué than giving us a whole dirty word to read. So, that blew my whole thought process out of the water. Seriously, though, there’s a wet t-shirt scene with an oversexed 13 year old girl, attempted rape, and the nuzzling of a senior girl’s boobies. These things wouldn’t have bothered me (Hello, have you seen the things I’ve been known to read??) except that I had it in my head (because of those blanked out curse words) that this book wasn’t going to go in that direction. Meanwhile, I don’t know what to think about the end. A fairly big revelation causes a shift in the entire dynamic of the group. While I get WHY the shift had to take place, the catalyst felt a little contrived to me. Something that hadn’t been hinted at up to that point became a turning point for two of the characters.
For the most part, I liked all the characters — even the annoying ones. A group of kids thrown into a situation like this aren’t all going to get along. Considering that half of them are too young to care for themselves, there’s going to be friction between the older kids as they struggle in caregiver roles.
Overall, there were things I did like about this book and then there were things that fell flat. However, the fact that I’m still turning things over in my head a couple of days after I read it tells me that I’m probably going to be reading the next book when it comes out.