The most distinguishing aspect about The Cave is a world set to ruins within hours of six college students venturing into one of the longest caves in the world (at least, one of the longest in this particular story): Wind Cave. What was supposed to turn out as a fun trip (and a few romantic endeavors) ended up as a survival story.
And to make it even more interesting? All of these college kids (and from Stanford to boot) have a skill or aspect to help each other survive because they all have the backgrounds to do so – medicine, science, law, etc. They just need to figure out how to take the knowledge and apply it to real life under unforeseen circumstances. The author slips in a few facts or two from some of the majors that I never actually knew about until I read The Cave. (Of course, higher education people will probably know Ammonium Carbonite is smelling salt, doesn’t smell pleasant, and basically revives someone who passes out… but I'm still in high school)
However, I’m not a huge fan of the characters. All six of them have to learn how to get along together, but there were a few quirks that didn’t hit too well. For instance, Kate is extremely jealous when it comes to Percy and Carlie’s interactions – it’s not too overwhelming at first, but it does get really annoying later, especially where Matt is concerned.
Throughout The Cave, both Matt and Percy (eventually) are going for Kate – Kate goes one way, but she feels differently (that probably sounds really confusing without spoiling something). The tension between the two boys is extremely thick – they don't see eye to eye on 99% of the things discussed in the book, especially when it comes down to Kate. They also offer good alternatives for her when the group gets to the surface, but Montgomery doesn't reveal this in the book.
And here I thought the love triangle would be over and the rest of the series would focus on what's going on up at the surface after the nuclear devastation. I'm a little disappointed.
One thing I would have really liked more of was the other side – basically, the people who are behind the destruction at the surface. Montgomery gives us snippets of what the other side is thinking and planning, but it's all teases designed to annoy the curiosities of the mind.
Don't expect to have much world building happening in this first book – as the title suggests, the story is set in a cave and well... not too much to describe about a cave (unless pink caves exists).
Overall, however, it was fun to read about kids who have the backgrounds and knowledge to survive trying to apply it to reality. I'm not too thrilled that Kate hasn't made her decision, but I want to read about this now-devastated surface trying to recover.