(Beware, what I have to say may contain SPOILERS.)
I knew none of this when I added the book to my summer reading list for potential Mock Printz books. I just knew it had won the Carnegie Medal last year in the UK and was now being published in America. I also knew, from the book flap, it was about a boy who was abducted and forced to live in a bunker, eventually with five other people. The blup on Goodreads says it is "Room meets Lord of the Flies" which dismal but interesting. What I didn't know, until I started reading it, this books dwells almost exclusively on the darker side of human existence---drug addiction, rape, psychological experiments, class-ism, narcissism, murder, suicide, and death. Ugh.
Amanda Craig, writing for The Independent, another UK publication, heads her article with the question, "Should books have happy endings?" She goes on to argue that teen readers don't need happy-endings per se but hope is vital. She concludes,
Brooks's story of kidnapped kids who never escape from their prison offers no hope ... It is depressing both in its nature and its lack of redemption; as a children's critic, I refused to review it on publication... It is the latest in a trajectory for the Carnegie prize which nobody who loves children's books can possibly applaud (Craig).Pretty strong stuff: no hope; sickening; cannot applaud.
To be fair, not everyone in UK hates the book. These folks, called Millennium RIOT Readers, wrote in The Guardian that they were glad The Bunker Diary won the Carnegie Medal.
The Bunker Diary is very bleak and unusual, but the characters in the story are what made this book important. Their breakdown, because of the helplessness of the situation they find themselves thrust into is what, we felt, drives the story forward to its frustrating and thought-provoking end (MRR).I'll give them that the ending was both frustrating and thought-provoking. I finished reading The Bunker Diary in bed. As I turned off the light, I wondered how I would ever be able to review this book. What could I possibly say except, don't read this book, it is too depressing? As I tossed-and-turned the thought of rummaging around for a lighthearted, funny book to change my mood entered my head. This book is seriously disturbing. Thinking about the book kept sleep at bay.
Perhaps that is the point of the book. It isn't so much a book about what happens but more about why does it happen and what is the meaning. A reader will be left pondering these questions long after the last page has been turned and the book has been closed.
So, will I recommend this book be added our Mock Printz list? Not a chance. Even though The Bunker Diary is well-written, it is so disturbing and disheartening I'm afraid it will turn off my readers. I won't remove it from the library. They can still read it if they want to but I won't recommend it for our list. There are too many similarly well-written books this year to fuss about with one that leaves the reader with no hope. I want kids to love reading, not be turned-off by it.
My rating 4 out of 5 stars. (Which is surprising, I know.)
Please join me in celebrating the blogoversary of Head Full of Books by signing up for aan audiobook giveaway of Egg and Spoon, the 2015 Audie Award Winning book. Click the link to the sign up page. Blogoversary Giveaway click here.
30 books Summer Reading Challenge
25 / 30 books. 83% done!