The Bunker Diary

Kevin Brooks
Penguin
9780141326122
March 2013
250pp
Whole book read

I never want to read this book again. I don't need to. It will stay with me forever.
When I closed the last page of The Bunker Diary I sat motionless in my chair for a long long time. I haven't read a young adult novel as powerfully compelling and as certain to have longevity since Marcus Sedgwick's Revolver.

The day before I finished this book I looked for it in a local branch of Waterstones. I couldn't find it. Let's suppose it was on a display table somewhere and I missed it. More staggering was the absence of any other title from Brooks' impressive backlist on the Young Adult shelves. I would hope that this is a temporary aberration.

To begin with Linus is alone in the six-bedroomed bunker. We quickly learn how he came to be there. Fooled into giving assistance to an apparently blind man, he was bundled into a van, drugged, and deposited in the bunker.

One by one five others, similarly hijacked and kidnapped, are brought down into the bunker. Linus himself is the dropout, street-living, busking teenage son of a rich dad. It is his diary which tells the story, and his voice and mindset through which Brooks delivers a book that is - to use a word much-loved by Melville - provokingly ontological.

In a dictionary definition, ontology is the 'philosophical study of the nature of being, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations'.

This is what all great writing does, in a sense. But in The Bunker Diary we have it done very specifically, very intensely, very frighteningly, at times almost unbearably.

Linus's first companion is a young girl, Jenny. At every point in this admirable novel Brooks takes risks head-on then executes things, via Linus, in a way that avoids obvious novelistic dangers.

The four other occupants of the bunker are all adults. The inclusion of a young girl in their midst is an important counterbalance. The relationship between Linus and Jenny is a touching one.

The serial arrival of the other characters, and the daily coming and going of the lift, delivering provisions or other messages from above, cannot help but carry reminders of TV's Big Brother, but the seriousness of the victims' predicament is never in doubt, or at least becomes quickly apparent, so that any notions that games are being played or that this is some form of prefabricated entertainment are quashed early on in the book.

The Bunker Diary is already receiving 5-star reviews on Amazon. One reviewer says this: "For me, there were a couple of parts in particular that I really couldn't handle. I was reading this while on a train home and I had to shut it numerous times. If I had been at home, I would have put it in the freezer for a bit because some parts were just that scary for me."