Book review: The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks  

Published by Penguin

Review by Lesley Finlay

Much was made of the fact that a dark, bleak and hopeless novel such as this should win the greatest prize in children’s literature, the Carnegie Medal. At the ceremony, author Kevin Brooks made much of the fact that this was the book he had steadfastly refused to modify, to sanitise; that he had waited longer than ten years to see his book published.

The Medal was some kind of justification for that decision. Now all that said: is The Bunker Diary any good? As a piece of writing, it is breath-taking; lyrical, clear and compelling. It feels like a 21st century novel with our nightmarish, brutal and random acts of violence that makes this situation entirely believable.

Runaway Linus has been kidnapped; taken off the streets by a blind man he tried to help, and is thrown into a concrete building with six rooms. There is a lift, a kitchen, a bathroom, cameras everywhere – and writing paper, lots of it. With six rooms, Linus quickly realises others will follow; when they do – a random mix of adults all duped by in some way; their lives ripped from them. Brooks offers a fascinating examination of how six people, with nothing in common other than basic humanity, react in a situation where there is no control, and more poignantly, utterly no hope.

Not for the fainthearted, and one for the older teen, defi nitely. For while Linus is a good and authentic narrator, this is neither a happy nor comfortable read; and maybe therein lies the genius of the work. Maybe.