Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Bunker Diary - Kevin Brooks - Carnegie Review 2014

Kevin Brook’s The Bunker Diary is a gripping grim read for older YA readers. This is one of those rare book that does what is says on the tin (well cover) as it is literally the diary of sixteen year old Linus, as he records his imprisonment in a bunker.


This book is dark, grim and relentless; it is not an easy read and is most suited to the older end of YA. It is however a masterpiece, Linus is a sympathetic, strong and complicated protagonist with a gripping voice that makes you want to read along and endure his suffering and that of those of his five randomly abducted prison mates, as they try to rise above the indignity and create order is chaos.

The writing is crafted beautifully to bring the bleak account of five random strangers thrown together deep in an underground bunker completely at the mercy of their abductor, who toys with them and plays games to cause discord and suffering for presumably his own amusement.

The six characters are all strong whole and well envisioned; Linus, a teenage runaway living on the street to escape his privileged life and loveless father. Linus proves to be smart and empathetic feeling the need to protect the others especially Jenny. Jenny, is a nine year old girl, innocent yet smart in her naive approach to solving problems. Anja, mid-twenties, confident beautiful career women who dissolves as soon as she arrives. Fred, a grizzly bear of man, strong, drug addict, with a good heart yet not to be trifled with. Bird, a sleazy rotund business man. Russell, an elderly deep thinking, black, gay gentleman. Each is different (one assumes purposely so as they've all been chosen up HIM UPSTAIRS) to cause the right amount of friction that is likely to combust with the right amount of pressure.

As the time goes on, and Him upstairs creates more disturbing games and plights to inflict on the them, the pressure builds and Linus records everything in his diary interwoven with memories of home, and inner thoughts, as a kind of therapy, or record for anyone to find, and for something to do. The book has a subtle tones of hope, as Linus has a strong instinct to survive that extents not just to him but for his comrades, and it’s this and his voice that compels you to read no, as you route for a happily ever after.

One of the real achievements of The Bunker Diary is the seventh character, Him Upstairs, the abductor. Him is faceless, every account given by each of the six is different; The Blind Man. The Policeman. The un-notable house viewer. The drunken business man and so on, so you never get a fix on what Him is like. Him never makes an appearance, yet he is ever present directing the action, and his personality is as just as strong and intriguing as the six, yet in a morbid-fascination-kind-of way.

Lastly, hat’s off to Kevin Brook’s for making the most dull inanimate objects so ominous, I for one will never be able to look at plastic cutlery in the same way again!

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