The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks was the controversial winner of the Carnegie Medal in 2014, following one from the equally contentious wins for Junk by Melvin Burgess and Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner. I enjoyed Junk very much, and never one to be too bothered by controversy I decided to give The Bunker Diary a go after my thirteen year old daughter read it and loved it.
I have to say that I found it incredibly powerful and very disturbing indeed. It is, I probably do not have to say, not a book for pre-teens. It tells the story of 16 year old Linus Weems, a runaway who gets abducted by a man who he thinks is in need of help, but who instead, dupes him, drugs him and keeps him in an underground bunker.
The story is told through Linus’ perspective, although there are other characters who arrive in the bunker by various ways and means. What happens to Linus and his compatriots is deeply upsetting and Linus struggles, in the pages of a notebook he finds in the bunker, to make sense of the situation he finds himself in.
Brooks shies away from no topic, attempted rape, murder, drug addiction, brutal beatings and torture feature as the story unfolds.
I’d like to say I enjoyed it, but I can’t really use that word fully. It certainly kept my attention and kept the pages turning. I found it compelling, although there were times when I wanted to physically walk away from what was happening in the book. It was incredibly gripping.
I can see why it has been a hit with teens, and I can also see why some libraries and schools won’t stock it. It is not an easy read by an stretch of the imagination.
If there was one area where I thought the book fell down, it was in the mysterious man who is the catalyst for all the events. I felt too removed from him, and frustrated by what seemed like randomness, although I appreciate that maybe we were meant to feel like that, as Linus certainly does.
The book reminded me hugely of John Fowles’ The Collector which has very similar themes, but for my money is a much better book. I would recommend that if you find someone who loves this, then they will also love The Collector. Although again, this would be suitable for teens only.
If you can get through it, The Bunker Diary is a book that will stay with you for a long time after you’ve finished reading it.