Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.
Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.
But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.
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.
Not the first time I’ve said this – I’m a sucker for a book that includes a map. And huzzah, this one does! There’s a map of the store where the kids are trapped in the front of the book. And as anyone who has ever been in a big box superstore will know, some of them require maps. And GPS. And possibly a sherpa. The number of days that the kids have been in the store is also on the corner of every page, which I thought was a really cool touch. Kind of like a 24-countdown-ish thing. So anyway, I was a fan of the layout of the book. But would I like the story itself as much?
Yes. I did. I figured I’d save some white-knuckle tension and get that out of the way first. In a world where there are a billiongajillion post-apocalyptic post-catastrophic post-disaster books, it takes a lot to set one apart these days. For me, what did it was that these are all kids surviving together. Still not unique, you say? Some of them are *literally* kids. Like, five years old. As hard as it would be for teenagers to survive a situation like this, imagine having some five year olds along for the ride. Not only would they be extra work to look after and keep them safe, there is also the – and forgive me, this is coming from someone who really does like children – annoyance factor. And it is high with some of them. One in particular who you just get the impression was Mommy’s Precious Little Snowflake and has become a bit of a despot in the new world order. To be fair, though, the annoyance isn’t limited to the little kids. Some of the teens have an obnoxious factor all their own. I liked that there was a good mix of personalities, even if I didn’t care for some of the characters. Let’s be honest – any time you get a group of 14 people together there are going to be assholes in that group. It’s the law of averages at work.
The entire book (save for the first chapter or two) takes place in the store, which you might think would get kind of monotonous after a while. Surprisingly, it doesn’t. It’s interesting to watch these kids do what they need to do to survive, to pull together, and there still manage to be some surprises thrown in as well. Especially at the end. Plus there are a couple of scenes of serious danger and a bit of a twist regarding the chemical spill.
Speaking of the end, I’m still not sure how I really felt about it. Initially I was like, “Really? You’ve got to be kidding me.” BUT. But. When I read the book I thought it was a stand-alone. I had no idea that it was the beginning of a series. And so, I’ve revised my stance on the ending. I still don’t love it but it definitely made me want to see what comes next, which is pretty much the job of the ending of a first book in a series. I know I will for sure be looking forward to reading book two.