Linus is 16, a runaway, and living on the streets of London when he gets abducted by a strange man in a van. When he wakes up, he finds himself in an underground bunker. He’s alone, but there are other empty bedrooms. Soon, those bedrooms are filled by people who were taken just like him. They’re being watched and punished. There is no escape. As time passes, the people in the bunker come to the horrifying realization that they may have to result to the absolute worst possible outcome if they have any chance of survival.
Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary is a disturbing read. This is not a title for every reader, because Brooks doesn’t shy away from the harshest aspects of human life and death and that includes some pretty horrific gore. But the book is beautifully written in sparse, haunting prose, and the pace is whip-fast, guaranteed to glue readers to every page as they race to find out the fate of the characters trapped underground.
There are certainly parallels to be made here to Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit (this might be lost on most teens, but there it is), and the book examines existentialism through its various characters. This is going to work best for sophisticated readers who are able to stomach violence and introspection in equal doses. It is, at times, simply brilliant. It is a novel that demands to be reread to pick up on the details of plot construction, character development, and insight into humanity.
Readers who finish this one will be haunted by the characters and the book’s overall message. It’s one that will garner a lot of discussion, which is good, because there’s lots to think and talk about within the book’s pages. A winner of the Carnegie medal, this is a must-read for anyone who can handle the suspense, the horror, and the darkest parts of what makes us human. Highly recommended.
The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks. Carolrhoda Lab: 2014. Library copy.