by Kevin Brooks
Book list *Starred Review* When this latest book from controversy-stirrer Brooks won the 2014 Carnegie Medal in the UK, up piped a familiar chorus of damnation from the frequently scandalized. It was too bleak, too dark, not for kids. The naysayers almost got it right: it is, rather, for everyone, playing just as well as can't-stop-reading entertainment as it does an allegorical passage into darkness. Linus, 16, is duped to assist an apparent blind man, then chloroformed, then abducted. He awakes in a small underground bunker: a kitchen, bathroom, meeting room, and six bedrooms. Why six? As with much in this book, the answer is a stark inevitability. One by one, five more abductees arrive via an elevator: a little girl, an old man, a rich woman, a businessman, and a junkie. But hopes of building a coalition across social lines is quashed after initial attempts to escape fail. The elevator door is electrified. The vents in the ceiling emit pepper spray. Deafening sirens make disabling the cameras impossible. From there, the games only become more insidious, from subtle manipulations of the group's sense of time to outright drugging of the food. And, finally, a note, which suggests to the inmates a deal too horrible to comprehend. It may sound like a horror film, but it comes across as existential dread. Linus, writing the book in his journal, begins to refer to the abductor as He, with a capital H. It's chillingly appropriate, for He has become a godlike figure issuing covenants on slips of paper and, by His own inscrutability, demanding blind worship and pleas for forgiveness from His flock. Despite His capricious cruelty, the humans fear being abandoned by Him. Given Brooks' past work, it's no stretch to think that this piercing interpretation of religion is intentional. But that's just for starters. The blank canvas of the bunker acts as a screen upon which one can project almost anything. Is Bird, the businessman, so named because he is the canary in the coal mine, his breakdown signaling the coming toxicity? Is the self-cannibalizing group a metaphor for old Russell's brain cancer, or vice versa? Or is this, quite simply, hell, a place of stillness where one can only ruminate over a life of regrets and shudder at the g-dung, g-dunk noise of the elevator bringing down the next torture? What will fascinate (or, yes, disturb) readers is Brooks' refusal to provide any off-ramps from his one-way street. That doesn't make Brooks Him he's not toying with us for perverse kicks. He is, in fact, doing the opposite, telegraphing the end long before it arrives, thereby granting us the opportunity, at a safe distance, to put lives upon the microscope and gauge their density. By extension, we look at our own lives, and consider our worth when removed from familiar settings, trapping, vices. What if there was a seventh room, and it had your name on it?--Kraus, Daniel Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publishers Weekly The fragmented, occasionally incoherent diary of 16-year-old Linus Weems, trapped with five strangers in an underground bunker, offers a disturbing window into the mind of a boy struggling to find sense in a senseless situation, as the possibility of escape or rescue-and the ability to cling to any semblance of hope-diminishes by the day. Each inmate has a tale of being snatched and drugged, awakening in an elevator that opens into the bunker. Every room is surveilled by camera and microphone; the bedrooms are equipped with a Bible, pen, and notebook. Requests sent to their captor via elevator are sometimes answered, sometimes ignored, and sometimes terribly perverted. There's little by way of character development; Linus at the end is the same boy he was at the beginning, with a lot more experience of suffering. The Man Upstairs, literally and figuratively (Linus begins to think of him as He), is never revealed. Relentlessly bleak, this recent Carnegie Medal-winner fascinates, provokes, and horrifies as Brooks (iBoy) stays true to his nihilistic aims, pushing readers toward an inexorable conclusion. Ages 13-up. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Gr 10 Up-Linus is a 16-year-old runaway living on the harsh English streets who wakes up one day in an unfamiliar underground bunker with no water or food while under constant surveillance by an unknown kidnapper. As each day passes, more people are kidnapped and are subjected to the same brutal conditions. When Linus and the rest try to escape and find out more about their situation and their kidnapper, they realize that, with their options dwindling, they may have to resort to the ultimate horror to survive. Brooks's controversial Carnegie Medal-winner is truly a psychologically disturbing book that will leave readers with a deep sense of unease. Linus's first-person narrative will make teens ask themselves what they would do in his situation. It's not a title for everyone: some may be unsettled by the harsh realities the protagonist faces, while others will be fascinated by the simple complexity of Brooks's prose and truly effective storytelling. A unique choice that will get teens talking.-Christopher Lassen, Brooklyn Public Library (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.