ARC: Phoenix Island by John Dixon


 Title: Phoenix Island

 Series: —

 Author: John Dixon

 Genre: YA thriller/suspense

 Rating: ★★★★½

 In short: immensely satisfying. Great writing, a gripping story, and characters you’ll love. Definitely a book to look out for!

GoodreadsThe 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: a secret government lab where Carl is given something he never dreamed of.

A new life. . . .

A new body. A new brain.

Gifts from the fatherly Old Man, who wants to transform Carl into something he’s not sure he wants to become.

For this is no ordinary government project. Phoenix Island is ground zero for the future of combat intelligence.

And for Carl, it’s just the beginning. . .

This is a definite must-read for fans of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series and Robert Muchamore’s CHERUB. And I do not compare anything to those series lightly. Phoenix Island is the story of Carl Freeman, a young boxer, who’s constantly getting in fights—but with the bullies for picking on other kids. Until a judge sentences Carl to Phoenix Island, a ‘terminal’ facility. Combined with grueling training and ruthless instructors, Phoenix Island is nothing short of hell. Here, the bullies get the superiors’ support, violence is almost encouraged, and horrifying punishments are doled out for any wrongdoings. With Carl’s tendency for fighting bullies, he’s quickly singled out as a troublemaker, an individual. The sergeants are always watching him. But Carl and his friends Ross and Octavia soon discover that what they’ve seen of Phoenix Island is only the beginning. The reality? It’s far, far worse.

What an excellent read. Let me say, John Dixon’s writing is masterful. It’s just the kind that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat while you read. The nail-biting suspense and the horrifying plot had me glued to my Kindle screen. This, readers and fellow book-nerds, is how you write action. I’m still reeling from it, despite having finished it several hours ago.

It’s not just the plot that’s well-written: the characters are so vivid. Carl, Ross, and Octavia are sure to be everyone’s favourites. One thing I loved about Octavia was that though she seems like the typical tough-girl, she’s also described as funny and smart. She’s not just a badass, she’s fun to hang out with too. Hello, real teenager alert! These are the kind of characters that you really care about, that you’ll stick with throughout a series and love no matter what—in that sense, reminiscent of the cast of Michael Grant’s Gone, or James Dashner’s The Maze Runner.

The picture that Phoenix Island paints is thrilling, gritty and dark. Wonderful. I hope this is a series, and if so, I’ll be waiting for the next one!

I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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