17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2014
I'm 11years old and I read this as part of a Carnegie book quiz at the library for my school reading team, and I must say it blew me away. This kind of book is one you remember forever, well in my case anyway. I like reading books about human nature and thought patterns, and it intrigued from the very start: you're a teenager, you live on the streets, and you're suddenly trapped with some older people who are going mad, and a liitle kid to look after. What do you do?
The answer is stay alive. And how? Read and dicover...
An incredibly truthful book, true to everything we would do in that situation. Yes, it's disturbing, but you're not actually that kid are you? Worse things happened in the Holocaust, and still happen now. I say learn from and don't forget this book. Read it. You won't regret it.
p.s. I'd avoid it if you get nightmares
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 April 2013
4½ Out of 5
"I thought he was blind. That's how he got me. I still can't believe I fell for it. I keep playing it over in my mind, hoping I'll do something different, but it always turns out the same..."
"A thousand questions have streamed through my head.
Where am I? Where's the blind man? Who is he? What does he want? What's he going to do to me? What am I going to do?
I don't know..."
Linus was living on the streets, living rough. But that doesn't mean he was rough. When he saw the blind guy struggling, he went and helped.
Linus didn't see it coming.
One minute, he's helping this blind man. The next, there's a cloth of chloroform over his mouth.
And the next... he's here. Wherever here is. It's underground (he thinks), has no windows, no doors out, no ways out. It's inescapable.
And he can't figure out what this man wants. Why the hell he's doing this to Linus. The best theory he has is that the guy found out who Linus' dad is and kidnapped him for ransom.
That theory? Yeah, it goes out the window (or it would if there were one) when the others start showing up...
Some books... some books are just impossible to put into words. Impossible to find the words for them. The Bunker Diary was exactly that book. It is literally everyone's worst nightmare put to paper. Someone, you don't know who, snatches you and leaves you in a windowless, doorless building. You don't know where, you don't know why and you don't know what he's going to do to you... Reading The Bunker Diary was utterly terrifying, horrible and awful. It was also utterly amazing. Stunning. It's one of those books you start reading and instantly find yourself hooked. You will read it in one go, heart-pounding, terrified, in awe, hooked. In fact I'm not even sure I can say much without giving it all away. But it was stunning. Incredible. Horrible. Amazing. You will read it and be one-hundred-per-cent hooked, start to finish. And Oh. My. God. Just... God... I have no words...
The characters in this book, well, they all felt really, really real. Some I liked. Some I hated. All were totally and utterly real to me. Just off the page. I may not have known much about any of their pasts or whatever but I felt them all...
I really liked Linus. He was a strong character: brave - definitely a hell of a lot braver than I would've been in his place. He was so together - so strong and calm. I loved how we slowly learned this, slowly got to know him. The way it happened slowly - like we were gaining his trust. And even then, he held things back. After all: who knows who'd be reading this diary?
Jenny was really sweet. Out of all of them, she was the one who deserved it least - she was so young, so sweet, so innocent. So brave. And I loved the relationship between her and Linus - it was really sweet. Like brother and sister. And unlike all the other relationships in this book, it was pure. Y'know? Not bitter or anything. They kept one another going.
I really loved Russell. I HATED Bird. Like actual, physical hate. He was so annoying and horrible and just ugh! I wasn't a fan of Anja either. Fred was ok...
And I thought the group dynamics were totally believable. I mean, they didn't all get along. You throw a whole load of various people in together, they aren't gonna get along like a house on fire. I mean, have you seen I'm A Celebrity? So there was bickering - and quite a lot of it. It was, in a totally sick way, intriguing to watch these so very different personalities interact under the intense pressure. Horrible, yes, but interesting. Especially the enemy started screwing with them. Playing games. Messing with their heads. Could you hold out - keep fighting, stay together - with a psychopath pulling at your strings? Can Linus and the others? Read and find out, my friends...
As for Him, "The Man Upstairs. Mister Crazy. The Man With No Name," he was terrifying. Horrible. Despicable. I mean, who does that?! Seriously. What kinda person do you have to be? Off topic, I found it really interesting that Linus referred to him as "Him". Why? Because generally when we use a capital for 'Him' we're talking about God... *I start to ponder again*
The writing was, quite frankly, stunning. I was hooked from the word go. I could hear Linus' voice in my head, I felt what he did, felt the anger and fear and desperation. I was tugged in, held there, never let go, not once. Not even left go when I'd read the last word and put the book down. Some of Brooks' words.... they just stayed. Right there in my head, lingering.
Oh, and I loved the voice changed depending on what Linus was going through. That was pure genius on Brooks' part.
This plot. My God! Talk about terrifying. It was suspenseful, to say the least. What made the whole story even worse was that nothing really happened. It's not like a serial killer book, where the bad guy whips out a knife and kills a whole bunch of people. No, this book was about the fear. The fear of what could happen. What new psychological torture the beep is gonna wreak on you. And I never knew what would happen next - never knew what the next sick trick would be. Just never knew. The plot: god, I never saw anything coming ever. And that ending.... Oh. My. Freaking. God. I just... God. Whoa. Man. Horrible. And so different from usual YA endings too...
But what made this book stunning was the horrifying reality it had. People go missing all the time. Kidnapped. Taken. Tortured. Killed. Children. Teenagers. Adults. Rich. Poor. No one's safe. That is why it is so very terrifying - and why The Bunker Diary really, truly packed one hell of a punch. It's stunning. Hard hitting. Unputdownable.
This book... Just, God. I can't, can't even... Just can't. Can't stop thinking about it. Can't get it out of my head. Can't get over it, not when my hearts still racing like this. Can't find the words. Can't do it justice. Can't. Just, can't...
Sorry, I'm not being very eloquent here... It's just, some books, you can't find the words - not when it's spinning around in your head, taking over your thoughts. You just can't seem to find the words. So all I'll say is: Yes, The Bunker Diary is terrifying and horrible and shocking and has left me speechless and possibly a little mentally scarred, but you... you just have to read it. It is incredible. In a horrible way, it is utterly and irrevocably incredible. I can't recommend it enough really.
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2014
My son had to read this for a school project. He's 12 years old, very bright and pretty level-headed but this really shook him up: he finished reading it in bed and came downstairs afterwards because he couldn't sleep, and was still very upset the next morning. So I picked up the book and read the last 20 pages or so, and I can see why. It reads very much like a Stephen King short story, and is in no way tempered to suit the younger reader. Now, I'm a huge King fan and started reading him in my mid-teens, and from what I've read of The Bunker Diary it seems very well-written; I'm sure my son will get over it and they'll no doubt have a very interesting discussion in school about it. But please be aware that it's intense, bleak and unsettling. If you're buying it for your child, read it first!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Warning: Unusually for one of my reviews - contains spoilers. If you want to read this novel and don't want to know what happens then don't;
(1) - Read my review
(2) - Read any of the publicity about the award of the Carnegie Medal to this book
(3) - Read the book's blurb or title!!
“You were so busy thinking about whether you could do it, you forget to ask yourself whether you should!”
Dr Ian Malcolm, Jeff Goldblum’s character in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park movie.
Brooks is a great writer. But…
There’s been a lot written about this book. A Carnegie medal winner garnering as much acclaim as moral outrage. Both are misplaced I think. The moral outrage is mostly generated by people who haven’t even read the book. And a lot of it is just patronising; “oh protect the little children from, the dark…” kind of commentary. But equally the medal does seem to have been given to a controversial choice to make a splash. Great marketing for Brooks and Penguin. There is absolutely, definitely something that is daring and ground-breaking here. A masterpiece possibly, but actually, an unfinished one (I’ll come back to that later) The writing is compelling. There is a strong and powerful voice here. Kevin Brooks is a great writer. The scenario is compelling too. The characterisation is excellent and the protagonist is well drawn, believable, sympathetic. We are rooting for him within two pages. Poor Linus, poor, poor Linus.
The conceit is described perfectly by the title; these are the diaries of someone kidnapped and held against their will in an inescapable bunker. Linus is our voice in the darkness. He is kidnapped from Liverpool Street station where he’s been living rough on the street and wakes up in a six-roomed underground bunker. He’s on his own down there for a few days and then Jenny, a nine year old girl turns up. People arrive in the bunker via a lift which comes down every morning at 8am, mostly empty, sometimes with newcomers until the bunker reaches capacity. Six people. They’re all kidnapped in various ways, most chloroformed unconscious and bound in a wheelchair and placed in the lift. We never meet their kidnapper.
With Linus and Jenny there’s Anya (a twenty-something socialite), Fred (drug and alcohol addict) William Bird (banker type) and finally, the last to be kidnapped and join those incarcerated is Russell. So, two children - Jenny and Linus - four adults, Russell is the oldest, 70. This is notionally a book for Young Adults because Linus is the protagonist, but it is actually a book about the horror of being incarcerated in the dark without hope. And that’s the key, there is no hope. At some point, about halfway through, we begin to understand that there is going to be no escape, no solution to why they’ve been taken. Not a pretty book. Not a nice book. Actually, not a story at all really, more a study in misery and horror and nastiness. It’s like celebrity big brother or one of those Victorian freak shows, you don’t want to watch but prurience and open-jawed fascination keeps you going. But not a story. Resoundingly not a story (again I’ll come to that). Because stories require resolution. Not a happy ending, not always, not a nice smiley lobotomised ending, but, but definitely an ending. A story that doesn’t end is, actually, not a story at all. It is unfinished.
This is more art than story, more Kevin Brooks sticking forks in his narrative legs and then putting a bag over his head and wrapping stones around himself and then jumping into a well and then sinking down and down and down just to see what it’s like. It takes commitment and energy to write stuff this dark and I’m sure Kevin a lovely man, but you need to finish the book mate. Dark. Nasty. Horrific. A horror book. But not a fun horror book (if you now what I mean) like a Stephen King where it’s make-believe, supernatural, scary, spooky and horror-filled that is entertaining. This is a car crash viewed across the other carriage way, we shouldn’t look but there’s a piece of us that wants to. This is horror without the story, horror to the level of festishistic (have no problem with horror per se as long as it sits within a story).
It fits the definition of art most certainly, in that it challenges you. Makes you think; mostly actually, how can someone write this stuff? But a story, not really, because it’s like a severed limb, there isn’t shape we recognise at the end of it. Don’t read it would be my advice, it’s not pretty. There’s murder, human despicableness and deep, deep misery. I admire the skill and talent in this book, the man is clearly a master at what he does. But and it’s a big but…why? What is the point? Really. Hats off to Mr Brooks that he can be so nasty to his characters, and yes I know the world is horrible and nasty things happen, but I want a story that offers me something, not even something as twee as hope, but something. Six people in a bunker with little food and no hope. What do we think’s going to happen? We’re intelligent people. We are. Come on. Guess. I’ve asked ten people this question. They have all answered; “Sounds to me like they all die!” Home run. Well that’s this book. Unrelentingly horrible. And just when you think it can’t get any more horrible it then goes and gets worse. Life ends in tears. Life ends in the middle of sentences. Stories end with resolutions. Otherwise they’re not stories.
If I contrast this with Emma Donoghue’s equally well-regarded Room - again written in the first person by one of the incarcerated (a 5 yr old) - the Bunker Diaries and Kevin Brooks miss the point of fiction I think. Fiction is about a story, with a structure, with a resolution, it doesn’t have to be a happy ending (think Handmaid’s Tale or The Fault In Our Stars) but it does have to end in a manner than brings ends together in some fashion. Life is ragged and stops without an end sometimes, people die all the time in the middle of the sentence of their lives. And people in a Bunker can do this too, but we, the reader, need to be offered something more from a story than a sentence finishing in the middle. That might be art, but it is vicious and nasty and actually, a bit lazy. No resolution. Uh? Hey, didn’t you forget something? Our questions are not answered, we’re just left looking at a bloody, horrific scene endlessly. So, poor, poor Linus our protag.. And, whilst I deeply admire Kevin Brooks literary prowess and he certainly deserves the acclaim for all of his skills, please, not for this book. No. This book is like a punch in the face from a stranger who runs away and is never caught. Pointless, painful, shocking and utterly unnecessary.
In defending this book Kevin Brooks has said "Children don't need happy endings." Fine. Agree. Some of the best and most powerful stories don't have them. But children do need endings - resolutions. This book stops, it doesn't end. An avant-garde art work in Tate Modern that the painter "didn't finish" as an act of art, you know half a canvas or the left-hand side of of sculpture, they'd be art, they wouldn't be stories.
It will be a while before I pick up another Kevin Brooks book. Staring into bleakness and not blinking is certainly a skill he has in spades, but is it one we need actually? We need the gorgeous joy of a well-told story, not some kind of punch-me-in-the-stomach game of misery depiction that takes us down into the dark with no way out. The bunker prisoners didn’t even need to escape, Kevin, you can have all the suffering you like, but give us some kind of resolution, Margaret Atwood does it brilliantly in the Handmaid’s Tale without the emotional power of the trauma of the protagonist’s horrific experience being lost. Or have a look at Sara Mussi’s excellent Siege, as bleak, as gritty and as dark - but it still gives us a resolution; review for Siege is here. Bunker Diaries needs to go back to the writer. The note for Kevin from me would read.
Brilliant stuff so far. Superb writing. Great set-up. Could even win the Carnegie! Now; finish it. No, I don’t want happy or hopeful necessary but the reader must have a resolution for this to be a story. How, you ask? You’re the writer, use your imagination.
As Dr Ian Malcolm says, to reprise;
“You were so busy thinking about whether you could do it, you forget to ask yourself whether you should!”
PS - An interesting question is if there was a resolution beyond Linus’s horror would it have won the Carnegie? Possibly not. Which is interesting in its own right. Publicity over story-telling? Maybe. But does that mean publicity and art trump story-telling? This is art, it got me thinking and responding but the controversy of the Carnegie medal is around the lack of a story for me, not in moralising about dark and difficult fiction. Children’s fiction stories win Carnegie. This isn’t a finished story. Not yet.
But what do I know? Really.
** 2 Stars (not a story yet)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2013
A brave, powerful book which went places I didn't expect it to. Definitely not for younger readers, or for those who want everything explained at the end.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2014
I am 13 and this was suggested to me at a library lesson in school, as my librarian know I enjoy books about distopia. However, although I was utterly gripped by this book it did have some flaws.
For a start, when things happened in this book, they happened. It made you want to turn each page quicker and quicker every time, however when nothing went on, nothing went on. When nothing big was happening in the bunker it was rather boring and mainly just went on about hunger and other things, although what else is there go on about? Escape attempts wouldn't work in reality and if they did in the book it would be totally far fetched, and this is quite a realistic book.
Also,I found it very disturbing. The start was good and intriguing but the last quarter of the book just got more disturbing and horrifying. I rather foolishly, knowing this book was a thriller, read it at night and although I was sharing a room with my brother as we were on holiday, every noise made me jump and I was on edge as I fell asleep. I didn't really know how I felt after finishing the book; happy, sad, scared. But I was definitely disturbed.
Also, Brooks uses hope smartly to keep you reading. Towards the end of the book with the turn if every page I was convinced that the next page would bring an escape, or something to leave the book with a happy ending. It didn't. The end of the book upset me because after the whole book, after the whole 2+ months you read with Linus, nothing happens, despite the hope, nothing happens.
I can only assume from the last four pages that Linus, rather sadly goes mad. Mad with loneliness, mad with fear, mad with hunger, mad with thirst.
And on the last page there is no go finishing sentence. It just finishes in he middle of the sentence, quite realistically yet disturbingly- like it would in reality.
The reason I think The Bunker Diary shouldn't have won the Carnegie children's book award is because I thing it is too mature and disturbing to be a child's book. I think it would have deserved another award but just not a children's one.
It is for sure 13+ and if you are planning of buying it as a gift for your/a child be sure to read it first if you have the time or look up many reviews. Other wise, a greater book, I really did enjoy reading it.
on 22 July 2015
I am the archetypal liberal, open-minded and loving father who constantly aims to inspire his children through a supply of challenging and varied texts. However, having read this book, I find myself compelled to sound a word of warning to fellow parents. My son is an intelligent, well-read and mature 11 year old; doubtless as special to me as yours' are to you. We realise we cannot possibly shield them from the evils of our world, don't we? But we do hope these might be revealed in a somewhat measured, intelligent and balanced manner.
Clearly I had not read enough reviews before ordering him this book, and it was only by chance that, having flicked through and noticed copious amounts of swearing, thought I had better check it first. I'm jolly glad I did because this is certainly the nastiest thing that I have ever read. More depressingly, it is nasty without any true purpose: an adolescent, empty sort of nastiness. We are provided with the usual clichéd line up: the capitalist pig and narcissistic dolly-bird hate figures, the intellectual token-ethnic/gay fellow and a heroin addict who can't decide whether he is hero or villain. We have some pretty boring attempts at blasphemy (oh, do get ready for the bible-chomping scene - yawn). However, it is through the addition of a nine year old girl to this torture that Brooks ensures his is a tale of woe with an added, and undeniably controversial, dimension (and woeful controversy breeds profit, of course).
The book has been placed high on my shelf, out of children's reach and will remain there for at least a couple of years yet. I notice that in Stella Richardson's review dated June 2014, this eleven year old enjoyed the book and argues that "worse things happened in the Holocaust and still happen now". With respect to Miss Richardson, I must say that I am not convinced that worse things do happen than are portrayed over the course of this book, and if they did this would not make this a tale I might gain philosophically from reading. I am afraid that I naively hope that my child will come to believe the same.
Three stars nonetheless since this is an undeniably compelling and well-paced read. Brooks also presents in Linus a very likeable young man, whose reminiscences about his family do not wallow in teenage angst but are actually rather touching in places. Just keep it out of the reach of children.
Teenager Linus Weems has been living rough in London for the last five months after running away from boarding school. Estranged from his father (the rich and famous Charlie Ween, who created a hit cartoon series but has been emotionally and physically remote since the death of Linus's mother), Charlie knows how to keep his head down. When a blind man whose arm is in a sling asks Linus to help put something in a transit van, he's cautious but thinks the man is harmless.
Overpowered and drugged, he wakes up in a concrete bunker. The only way in or out is through a lift controlled by his kidnapper. Cameras are dotted around the bunker to keep him under observation. If he tries to escape, he's gassed or electrocuted. But there are six rooms in the bunker and Linus's kidnapper isn't finished yet ...
Kevin Brooks's dark YA horror is a tense, chilling read with a stomach-churning ending that lingers long after you finish and I can see why it won the 2014 Cilip Carnegie Medal. Sparse and haunting it focuses on Linus and his thoughts about his situation, his attempts to escape and shows what can happen when a group of strangers are forced into close proximity in terrifying circumstances. If you're looking for a happy ending then this isn't the book for you and younger readers or those who are sensitive should probably give it a miss too. However, if you're a Brooks fan then you know what you're in for and I don't think you'll be disappointed.
The use of the diary format is a little contrived but nonetheless effective, allowing Linus to reflect on his past as well as his current situation. The introduction of Jenny, Fred, Bird, Anja and Russell helps to provide more details of what the kidnapper is doing but raises more questions as well and I must confess that I would have liked to see each developed more than they are as some (Bird, Anja and Fred in particular) are rather stock. I enjoyed the fact that so much is left unexplained but I can see that some readers would find it frustrating. The rivalries and friendships that form between the six also provide tension and emotional depth and make the ending even more heart breaking. Ultimately though, this is an effective and devastating book that deserves its plaudits.
on 8 June 2014
I try not to rave about every single book I review as I know my opinion won't count for much if every single book I mention is 'OMGZ AMAAAAZE'. I do always try to give a balanced view and touch on both the good and the bad but, in the case of the occasional book, I cannot do anything other than rave. And The Bunker Diary is absolutely one of those books.
I've been a fan of Kevin Brooks for a while now and I've loved everything of his that I've read so far. However, nothing has affected me quite as much as The Bunker Diary. The second I received a press release I knew I had to read it. The premise completely grabbed me and I knew that if anybody could pull off such a bold story it would be Brooks, who is a master when it comes to atmosphere and tension.
As other reviews have mentioned, this is an incredibly difficult book to review as the beauty of this one lays in the twists and turns that the reader discovers at the same time as Linus, our protagonist. I'm going to keep this spoiler-free and please, please take my advice and go into this one knowing as little as possible because, I promise, your jaw will be on the ground.
The Bunker Diary is a terrifying look at abduction, yes, but most of the horror doesn't come from the nameless person co-ordinating the attacks but the delicate society that forms within the bunker itself. The tension is on a knife edge at all times and I couldn't relax for a second, knowing that the wrong word or look from anybody could cause absolute chaos for Linus. The nod to Lord of the Flies in the summary is wholly accurate and, like in Golding's classic, anarchy never feels more than a heartbeat away.
I know the lack of information about the abductor may get to some people but, for me, it made the book even scarier. The unknown is what affected me in this book. The fact it could be anybody? That's really terrifying.
I love a good ending, I'm sure any regular readers of this blog are aware of this. I also tend to dislike a Hollywood ending. I like a shocker. I like excitement, I like twists and I love open-ended endings. I'm not going to say a single thing about the ending of The Bunker Diary except that it is absolutely incredible.
Kevin Brooks is a genius, he 100% deserves his reputation as a master of YA, and that's all there is to say.
on 27 May 2014
First, a warning - The Bunker Diary, is about as hard-hitting and unpleasant a book as I've ever read. Being 'young adult', it is getting the obligatory references to Lord of the Flies - I'm personally leaning more towards "No Exit" or Concrete Island.
Linus is a teenage busker. He's a runaway (from a fairly wealthy background) and has taken to the street to find/lose himself. Take your pick. The story opens with him in the titular bunker. He's been kidnapped off the street, drugged, and transported to this prison: six bedrooms, one bathroom, a lot of cameras, no exits.
With his mysterious captor watching everything he does, Linus keeps a diary as his one means of rebellion - he can write what he wants, say what he wants and, in a sense, be free. If the circumstances weren't so horrifically macabre, this is everything he was looking for whilst living on the street. (Hint: theme alert.)
Things swiftly become even more complicated when other prisoners arrive and the captor begins to engage in a more tangible fashion. With every new arrival and new 'stimulus', Linus finds himself tested. Not just physically (in truly awful ways), but - if you'll forgive the word - existentially. With his world reduced to the head of a pin, Linus is continuously challenged to verify his individuality and his animus. What makes him a person and not a nameless victim or a statistic? What makes him unique, distinctive and 'Linus'? All this, plus all the in-fighting, despair and horror that you might be able to anticipate from a hard-hitting tale of kidnapping and torture.
Needless to say, The Bunker Diary isn't exactly uplifting. Yet, without question, it deserves its place on this year's Carnegie shortlist and may god have mercy on the person that has to establish some point of commonality between this book and, say, Rooftoppers. But unlike "No Exit" or Lord of the Flies, there is a certain element of the 'triumph of the human spirit' (forgive the use of that too, will you?) in The Bunker Diary. The bunker is a horrible, blasphemous crucible, allowing Linus a perverse chance at what he really wanted - a chance to know himself and learn what freedom truly is.