I can't believe I fell for it.
It was still dark when I woke up this morning.
As soon as my eyes opened I knew where I was.
A low-ceilinged rectangular building made entirely of whitewashed concrete.
There are six little rooms along the main corridor.
There are no windows. No doors. The elevator is the only way in or out.
What's he going to do to me?
What am I going to do?
People are really quite simple, and they have simple needs. Food, water, light, space, privacy. Maybe a small measure of dignity. A bit of freedom. What happens when someone simply takes all that away?
- (Baker & Taylor
Sixteen-year-old Linus Weems, a street person since leaving his wealthy father's home, is kidnapped and taken to an underground bunker where he is soon joined by five others, ranging in age from nine to seventy, who are alternately cared for and torturedby their unseen captor. - (Baker & Taylor)
Linus Weems, a street person since leaving his father's home, is kidnapped and taken to an underground bunker where he is soon joined by five others, who are alternately cared for and tortured by their unseen captor. - (Baker & Taylor)
*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? Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
School Library Journal Reviews
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
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