Saturday, January 4, 2014

Phoenix Island

Phoenix Island by John Dixon
Gallery Books; 1/7/2014
Hardcover; 320 pages

ISBN-13: 9781476738635 

The judge told Carl that one day he’d have to decide exactly what kind of person he would become. But on Phoenix Island, the choice will be made for him.

A champion boxer with a sharp hook and a short temper, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. He can’t seem to stay out of trouble—using his fists to defend weaker classmates from bullies. His latest incident sends his opponent to the emergency room, and now the court is sending Carl to the worst place on earth: Phoenix Island.

Classified as a “terminal facility,” it’s the end of the line for delinquents who have no home, no family, and no future. Located somewhere far off the coast of the United States—and immune to its laws—the island is a grueling Spartan-style boot camp run by sadistic drill sergeants who show no mercy to their young, orphan trainees. Sentenced to stay until his eighteenth birthday, Carl plans to play by the rules, so he makes friends with his wisecracking bunkmate, Ross, and a mysterious gray-eyed girl named Octavia. But he makes enemies, too, and after a few rough scrapes, he earns himself the nickname “Hollywood” as well as a string of punishments, including a brutal night in the “sweatbox.” But that’s nothing compared to what awaits him in the “Chop Shop”...
My Thoughts:

Phoenix Island by John Dixon is the first novel in what looks like a new series of novels that should appeal to the older end of the YA market. It is the basis for a new, upcoming CBS adaptation, Intelligence. It is highly recommended.

In Phoenix Island Carl Freeman is a 16 year old orphan who has been battling bullies as long as he can remember. His fighting ability, and he is a champion boxer, has landed him in trouble repeatedly with the authorities.  His juvenile delinquency record has landed him in trouble for the last time. Carl is being sentenced to Phoenix Island. The island is located out of the USA, and therefore out of US jurisdiction, somewhere off the coast of Mexico. He's told it's a juvenile detention facility, a last chance boot camp for delinquents. He must stay there, sans any contact with the outside world, until he is 18.

It becomes clear immediately that Phoenix Island is not quite the boot camp/rehabilitation facility that Carl thought it would be. It is run with military precision and organization by a squad of sadistic "drill sergeants" who make life on Phoenix Island hell for the kids there. Added to that the other kids there are encouraged to torture the weaker kids. It's a whole system built upon the bullying that Carl so consistently has hated and fought against his whole life.

All the kids sent there are orphans. This is to guarantee that no one will be looking for them should any "accident"happen to the kids sentenced there. They are all expendable. As the viciousness increases, Carl knows he must find a way out.

This thriller is a page turner that can be compared to Lord of the Flies but also clearly pays homage to several other movies and books as the story progresses. Since Dixon is a boxer his inside knowledge of the sport lends a real authenticity to Carl's moves and thoughts as he fights. There is a lot of military influence in the twisted society that exists on Phoenix Island, so there is the whole vocabulary and organization that goes along with that. It's also a violent book so I wouldn't hand it to a younger teen.

The writing is certainly good and the action kept the novel moving at a frantic clip. I did have a few "Oh, really? Really" moments in the action as various twists in the plot can into play. The twists seemed to jump, flip, and morph the plot into something else. It was certainly an entertaining book and perfect for escapism. The ending definitely promises a continuation of the story. It will be interesting to see if Intelligence is anything like Phoenix Island.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Gallery Book via Netgalley for review purposes.

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