Title: Phoenix Island
Author: John Dixon
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: 1-7-14
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Science Fiction
Source: ARC from publisher in exchange for honest review
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…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: a secret government lab where Carl is given something he never dreamed of.
A new life. . . .
A new body. A new brain.
I’m going to be completely honest…after trudging through the first chapter of this book, I was sure that I was going to hate this. A slow start and it’s basically a sci-fi version of Lord of the Flies, which is a book I absolutely loathed? Yeah, no thanks. But then slowly, I started to realize…it was AWESOME. After I got through about the first 20% of the book, I could not put it down. I was so intrigued! I had to know what was going to happen next. And everything I predicted was going to happen? Well, nothing was exactly like it seemed.Phoenix Island surprised the crap out of me, and there totally needs to be more books like this on the YA market! An action-packed sci-fi thriller with a male protagonist? It’s got “teenage boys” written all over it. Did that sound kind of weird? Okay, maybe. But, still, there’s nothing like it out there and there needs to be more of it!
My biggest complaint about Phoenix Island, and the reason why it’s a 4.5-star read and not a 5-star one, is how far-fetched this book is. We’re talking completely unrealistic. Like, nope, not even a chance that this could happen in real life. And it’s weird, because while this book is kind of sci-fi, it’s 90% just a contemporary thriller, so the juxtaposition between the two was weird. It’s like there needed to be more sci-fi or something, because at least it would’ve sort of made sense, since sci-fi books can kind of get away with being ridiculous. But once you realize that you need to just shove away your belief for a second and read the story for what it’s worth, it starts to get really good.
I love how intense this book got. Out of nowhere, it became so dark and violent and I was shocked! I’ve never really read anything like this in YA. It’s so scary and fast-paced andgritty. And I could totally imagine this book becoming a movie. Reading it was like watching one in my head. I could so easily picture everything that was happening. And Iso badly was rooting for the main character. Carl was a hero and I loved him so much. The last 20% of the book completely destroyed me, and even though it was 2am I just had to keep reading and reading to find out how this whole grizzly affair was going to end! And then…wow. I still can’t believe how it unraveled. And almost 24 hours later I can’t stop thinking about it! Where’s the next book, John Dixon?! So much could happen.
Phoenix Island is like a combination of Lord of the Flies, Survivor, World War II, and The Maze Runner. All somehow rolled up into one. I feel like I can’t even explain it. And even though it did have its flaws, I didn’t even care. This book surprised the heck out of me and was so incredibly good. I want more! Dixon is a debut author to watch.