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Phoenix Island (Bram Stoker Award for Young Readers) Paperback – December 9, 2014
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"This action-packed novel (with YA crossover appeal) combines adventure with extreme violence and concerns a young boxer sent to a very special youth boot camp.... When things come to a head, Carl finds that all of his suspicions about the island prove even worse than he thought in this crisply written and imaginative effort. Dixon’s page-turner will keep readers of all ages enthralled. A fast-paced, exciting novel with the promise of future installments." (Kirkus)
“100% great!” (Cemetery Dance Magazine)
"An unusual premise makes Dixon’s thriller debut a welcome series kickoff... the pacing and smooth prose will have suspense fans waiting for the next book, as well as the upcoming CBS adaptation, Intelligence." (Publishers Weekly)
"Filled with both menace and heart, Phoenix Island stands out in all the right ways." (New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr)
"Lord of the Flies meets Wolverine and Cool Hand Luke. A tribute to the indomitable human spirit that challenges the mob and chooses values over expediency." (F. Paul Wilson, New York Times bestselling creator of Repairman Jack)
“Fast-paced and thoroughly engrossing – I could not put it down!”
(Lissa Price, international bestselling author of Starters)
About the Author
John Dixon is a former Golden Gloves boxer, youth services caseworker, prison tutor, and middle school English teacher. You can visit his blog at JohnDixonBooks.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
It doesn't take Carl long to make friends, especially the attractive Octavia, and it doesn't take long for all the teens to figure out this isn't a regular boot camp.
Fast paced with some great fight scenes, this book is a cross between LORD OF THE FLIES; the ESCAPE FROM FURNACE series; and THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU. The author did a good job of combining all these different ideas into a cohesive, very readable book.
I'm glad that this is a series so I get to read more about the adventures of Phoenix Island. There was no huge cliffhanger ending in this tale, which I am glad about, and I'm also glad I have the next book in the series - DEVIL'S POCKET - that I will be reading next.
There were a couple of scenes that caused my stomach to roll (and I read some pretty gritty books) so be forewarned.
In Phoenix Island, we meet our main character, Carl, a teen with a temper who’s been in trouble one too many times. The new judge seems understanding enough and offers Carl a chance to reform instead of simply sending him to jail: go spend time on Phoenix Island at an army-inspired camp for troubled youth until he’s 18, and if he stays out of trouble, he won’t serve any additional jail time and the court will expunge all previous cases against Carl.
So, what’s the catch? There’s no way off Phoenix Island. Once you get there, you’re there until you turn 18. There’s no television, no radios, no computers, no contact whatsoever with the outside. You live by the island’s rules or there will be boot camp hell to pay.
Carl heads to the island with a group of other kids and manages to start out by keeping his head down and staying out of trouble, but Phoenix Island is ruled by some hard-core leaders, and they do not take it easy on these kids. Thankfully Carl has a been an athlete (a Junior Champion boxer!) pretty much all his life, and he’s used to working out and has taken care of himself physically. The only problem is that Carl has a big heart and a history of defending the little guy by using his fists, and you know what they say about history repeating itself…
There was so much I liked about this book! The pacing of it was pretty solid, and John Dixon writes in a way that helps you really care about the characters! Carl is an underdog despite his physical strength and stamina, and who doesn’t love rooting for the underdog? There’s no indifference to the outcome here – you want Carl to turn his life around while serving his time on the island.
The book also had a similar feel to the movie Mean Girls, except this is primarily boys and it’s on an island in an army-like setting. LOL. That sounds weird, but it’s true! I liked reading a YA book from a male’s perspective. I can’t claim I understand them better, but it was fascinating to read how they interacted. My take? Boys can be just as mean as girls but boys are more obvious about it – oh, and they use their fists!
Aside from some bullying and survivalist adventures, there’s also a mystery that develops. Carl is assigned to some paperwork duty while on Phoenix Island and happens upon some documents that reveal some potentially dark motivations behind the island’s existence. Who built it and why? What’s really going on in the Medical Building that no one seems to return from? (You know you’re gonna have to read to find out the answers, right??) I loved the mystery’s gradual suspense and the big reveals throughout the second half of the book.
Last note on the good things: I can’t go without mentioning the action included in Carl’s story. It’s pretty much nonstop. Even when he isn’t doing anything, it’s still filled with action and suspense! At the end of every chapter, I had to read “just one more chapter” to find out what happened next. (Yes, I had some long evenings while reading this. :) )
What sometimes got me down was the level of detail used to describe the fights Carl gets in (and remember, he’s a boxer, so he was bound to be in more than one fight!). I found it overly descriptive and I sort of read those parts with only one eye paying attention to the words (that’s a neat parlor trick, no?). There were even words used in the scenes that I’d never heard of before. All were boxing terms, so I had a difficult time understanding them. It definitely decreased the suspenseful build ups during the action scenes for me, but thankfully the plot was strong enough to overcome my lack of boxing knowledge.
You may have heard that the new CBS show Intelligence is (loosely) based on Phoenix Island, so how do they compare? Well, so far, they don’t really tie together very much (booo!).
We haven’t heard a lot about Gabriel’s past yet (that’s Carl’s name in the TV show), so I can’t say how far they’ll stray from the book. However, many of Carl’s characteristics seem to carry over to the TV show: passion, impulsivity, physical strength, and intelligence. I can’t go into too many of the discrepancies without giving away parts of the book, but I will say the outcome of Phoenix Island and the fundamentals of Intelligence are very far apart. I’m hoping they tie the boxing and troubled youth into the TV show, but even if they don’t, I feel like I have a little extra insight into why Gabriel is the way he is.
I was expecting Phoenix Island to be like The Maze Runner or maybe The Penal Colony, and it was sort of a cross between the two. If you enjoyed either of those, I think you’d enjoy this book too. Despite the overly descriptive fight scenes, I sped through reading this book and was very invested in the outcome. I’m looking forward to a follow-up to the first book, and who knows, maybe the book series will eventually lead us to the start of the TV show’s plot; now that would be cool.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Most Recent Customer Reviews
'Phoenix Island' is a whip-fast excursion into a beastly developmental program for juvenile delinquents run...Read more