Hey, loves! I’m reading like a woman possessed at the moment and my to-review pile is stacking up something terrifying, so on this balmy Friday evening I’m afraid you’re getting a review instead of a weekly news post. Grab a drink (I suggest an alcoholic one for this particular post) and join me!
Room meets Lord of the Flies, The Bunker Diary is award-winning, young adult writer Kevin Brooks’s pulse-pounding exploration of what happens when your worst nightmare comes true – and how will you survive?
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 lift is the only way in or out.
What’s he going to do to me?
What am I going to do?
If I’m right, the lift will come down in five minutes.
It did. Only this time it wasn’t empty…
I’m not even entirely sure how I should or could describe The Bunker Diary, by juggernaut UKYA author, Kevin Brooks.
Reading The Bunker Diary is an experience. It’s not a good one, nor a bad one. It just is. As the title suggests, almost the entire book takes place in an underground bunker. We don’t know why the captives are there, we don’t know if they’ll ever get out and we have no idea what game the dude who captured them is playing.
This is a really hard book to constructively review because of the way that its written. It’s also notoriously divisive, having won a prestigious Carnegie Medal in the UK whilst simultaneously being hailed as ‘vile and dangerous’ by much of the press. Upon finishing it, I wouldn’t class it a traditional children’s book, but neither would I call it vile and dangerous. Hard to read? Yes it is, but that doesn’t mean that young adults should be shielded from it.
Newsflash: The world can be an unforgiving place, and just as we call for diversity of characters in our fiction, we should also appreciate books that reflect the diversity of real life. Sometimes things don’t work out the way that we would like, and occasionally life is more horrifying than we would like to imagine. This story reflects that truth.
Kevin Brooks is a masterful writer, and I did genuinely enjoy the intense pacing and visceral writing. The character building is superb, and Brooks uses the suffocating micro-climate of the bunker to his advantage: getting right under the skin of each of his very different characters and using them to expertly explore the dark underbelly of human emotion. I enjoyed the way relationships were built and broken between the protagonists, and I thought that the innocence of both Jenny and Linus really threw the behaviour of the adult characters into stark contrast.
This book raises far more questions than it answers, and at the end of the book I spent some time gaping at empty pages and wondering what the point of it all was. I generally like books that have something to say, and I occasionally thought that Brooks might be making some sort of commentary on how we lose hope as we grow into adults. Ultimately, I decided that he didn’t have a point in mind at all, other than to say that life is random, unjustifiable and often, unfair.
If you think I’m making this sound like a depressing read, then you would be right, because it is. There’s no fairytale-like resolution, and if you like happy love stories featuring rainbows, expert kissing and cake then I suggest you step away from this book and run in the other direction. If you want to read something that makes you feel things (even if they are uncomfortable things), if you want a book that implores you to consider the sharp unfairness of life in all of its disgusting glory, then pick this up with an open mind. It really is something; I’m just not sure what that something is.
- Author: Kevin Brooks
- Release Date: 7th March 2013
- Publisher: Penguin Books
- Pages: 268
- Rating: 3/5
- In short: Bleak and shocking. One of the best or worst books I’ve read recently, and I’m still not sure which.