Monday, 30 June 2014

The Bunker Diary By Kevin Brooks Review

Do yourself a favour- stop what you're doing right now and go out and buy a copy of the Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks, which has just won the Carnegie Medal, and read it. You won't need the tv on, music in the background, frequent Candy Crush breaks, anything like that- you will just need this book. It is disturbing, tense and haunting in all the best ways.

You want bleak? I'll give you bleak
The Bunker Diary is a great twist on the group of x stranded in y genre that I so enjoy. I love Lord of the Flies and am more than a little obsessed with Lost (let's be honest though, that's mostly because of Sawyer...) I particularly enjoy the Criminal Minds episodes that feature people locked up somewhere, a psychopath their puppet master. 

This is pretty much what the Bunker Diary is- somebody ("He") abducts 6 people, puts them into a purpose built bunker and messes with their minds. The people in the bunker are very different- a nine year old girl, an estate agent, a management consultant, an elderly physicist, a junkie and the main character, a teenage runaway, Linus. The Bunker Diary is written by Linus, who documents his time in the bunker in a notebook left by Him.

The most distressing part of the novel for me was the suspense. The only communication the inhabitants have with the man who put them in the bunker is through the lift that rumbles up and down at regular (or irregular) intervals. What is, or isn't in there, dictates the mood of the prisoners. There's food (or an absence of it), a vicious doberman, newspaper clippings, and more. The lift is their only contact with the outside world and it's a very one-sided conversation.

As you can imagine, there's a lot of philosophising, resentment and tension. The psychology of the prisoners is deftly explored and still a lot is still left to your imagination- which I like. I hate when information is handed to the reader on a plate (show don't tell!), and I think Brooks strikes a good balance between believability of diarising and well, word vomit.

As for the ending, well, it was never going to be happy. I loved the fact that there is no resolution, no exposition. Spoiler Alert: it's pretty bleak. I don't want to give too much away, but rest assured if you're looking for happy, you won't find it here.

There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding The Bunker Diary, because it has just won an award for best children's novel. I wouldn't necessarily say it was suitable for children. Teenagers maybe, but children? Hmm... It's a bit, well, distressing. In fact, on the front of my cover there is a large sticker that reads: Not suitable for younger readers. Quite.

However, far be it from me to question the Carnegie judges, who awarded this novel first prize in the Carnegie Children's book awards as some of the press have. I can see where their issues lie, but it is such a gripping novel, I can see why it won. I haven't read any of the other Carnegie nominees, but I can't imagine that they'd be anything like The Bunker Diary.

I'd definitely recommend giving this a read and not being put off by the fact that it's billed as a children's book. Some teen fiction I have enjoyed, and some I just loathe, but this is quite adult, and also quite terrifying. If you like thrillers (which I do), you'll love the Bunker Diary. 

(Also, if you have read it- let me know. I really want to talk about the ending with someone!)

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