Phoenix Island

Phoenix Island

4.5 19
by John Dixon
     
 

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WINNER OF THE BRAM STOKER AWARD FOR SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

John Dixon’s critically acclaimed Phoenix Island reads like “Lord of the Flies meets Wolverine and Cool Hand Luke” (F. Paul Wilson, creator of Repairman Jack). For fans of The Bourne Identity, Alex Rider, and Melissa Marr.

Overview

WINNER OF THE BRAM STOKER AWARD FOR SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

John Dixon’s critically acclaimed Phoenix Island reads like “Lord of the Flies meets Wolverine and Cool Hand Luke” (F. Paul Wilson, creator of Repairman Jack). For fans of The Bourne Identity, Alex Rider, and Melissa Marr.

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”—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…

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/02/2013
An unusual premise makes Dixon’s thriller debut a welcome series kickoff. Carl Freeman, a 16-year-old orphan, can’t help himself from intervening on behalf of the bullied, and, given his boxing prowess, the results for the aggressors are often quite serious. After another such run-in, a judge sentences Carl to “a military-style boot camp,” Phoenix Island, until he turns 18. The facility is worse than anything he could have imagined, with sadistic drill sergeants, violent fellow detainees, and plenty of bullies. Carl’s independence earns him the enmity of a particularly cruel drill sergeant. Carl discovers a journal that suggests some of his predecessors were actually killed, indicating that something beyond tough love is going on. There are some predictable elements—Carl falls for an attractive girl with a secret—but the pacing and smooth prose will have suspense fans waiting for the next book, as well as the upcoming CBS adaptation, Intelligence. Agent: Christina Hogrebe, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Jan.)
F. Paul Wilson
"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."
New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr
"Filled with both menace and heart, Phoenix Island stands out in all the right ways."
Lissa Price
“Fast-paced and thoroughly engrossing – I could not put it down!”
Cemetery Dance Magazine
“100% great!”
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-27
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. Carl Freeman has never been able to stand by and watch while someone is bullied, and that's become a problem for him. An up-and-coming boxer who won a national championship, Carl can't force himself to walk away whenever a kid's being bullied. As a result, the orphaned son of a police officer and a cancer victim has found himself in and out of the juvenile justice system. Now, at age 16, Carl has been sent to a place off the coast of Mexico called Phoenix Island, where he meets the beautiful Octavia and Ross, a kid who can't seem to stop himself from telling jokes, even if that leads to severe punishment. And there's plenty of punishment to go around at Phoenix Island, purportedly a boot camp for troubled kids. Only thing is, every kid on the island turns out to be an orphan, and all of those orphans seem to be expendable, or at least that's what Carl suspects when he finds a journal kept by a previous inhabitant of Phoenix. Forced marches, food deprivation and nonstop training don't bother Carl, but he has an issue with the viciousness that one particular drill sergeant evinces. 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781476738703
Publisher:
Gallery Books
Publication date:
01/07/2014
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
38,080
Lexile:
HL780L (what's this?)
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt

Phoenix IsLand

  • WEARING A STIFF BLUE JUMPSUIT and handcuffs, Carl sat with no expression on his face and waited to see what they were going to do to him this time.

    They were going to come down hard on him. The judge might even dismiss the case straight to adult court, and then Carl would be looking at jail time, as in real jail, no more juvie, no more boys. Men. Thieves and rapists and murderers. Shanks and gangs. Everything. He’d be lucky to survive a month.

    The Dale County Juvenile Court didn’t look like a courtroom. It was just a narrow room with two folding tables set end to end. No judge’s dais, no jury box, no spectators’ gallery. Just the tables and a dozen or so uncomfortable metal chairs flanking them. Carl smelled new carpet and coffee. Fluorescent lights buzzed in the drop ceiling overhead. A furled American flag leaned in one corner, pinned to the wall by a podium pushed up against it to make room.

    He avoided eye contact with his foster parents, who sat at the other end of the table, next to Ms. Snyder, the probation officer, and stared instead at his bruised and swollen hands—the scars on his knuckles reading like a twisted road map of the great lengths he’d traveled to arrive here.

    Out in the hall, somebody laughed in passing. Carl heard keys jingle. A cop, probably.

    The cop in this room looked bored. His leather gun belt creaked as he shifted his weight, watching the judge shuffle through a tall stack of papers.

    Carl’s mouth was dry and sour with the waiting. Directly across the table, the judge picked up a white Styrofoam cup. Then he put it down and set some papers to one side of the others. Then he looked up. He had watery eyes and deep lines in his face. His hair was a gray mess, and he needed a shave. Despite his robe, he looked more like a burned-out math teacher than a judge. Looking again at the white cup, he finally spoke.

    “Could somebody please get me another cup of coffee? Velma? Would you mind?”

    A tall woman said okay and stood up and left the room.

    “You are an orphan,” the judge said, turning his attention to Carl.

    “Yes, sir.”

    “It says here your father was a police officer?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “And what does that make you?”

    “Sir?”

    “The sheriff?”

    Chief Watkins snorted. “I’m the damned sheriff.”

    “Language, Chief. I’d hate to have to find you in contempt of court.”

    Carl read the men’s voices: just a pair of good old boys, having a little fun while they sat one more case together.

    Chief Watkins nodded. “Sorry, Your Honor.”

    “That’s all right.” Then, looking up at Carl, he said, “You’re kind of a hard-ass, aren’t you, son?”

    Chief Watkins cleared his throat.

    “It’s all right, Chief. It’s my court. I’ll be in contempt if I see fit. Answer the question, son. You fashion yourself a hard-ass?”

    Carl shrugged. “I don’t mean to be.”

    “You don’t mean to be.”

    “No, sir.”

    “And you know what that sounds like to me?”

    “No, sir.”

    “That sounds like every kid who comes in here.” He looked at the paper. “It says here you’re a boxer?”

    Carl nodded. “I was.”

    “Chief Watkins used to box a little, didn’t you, Chief?”

    “A few smokers back in the navy. Nothing official.”

    The judge said, “Our friend here had more than a few fights. How many was it altogether, son?”

    “Eighty-seven,” Carl said.

    “And out of those eighty-seven matches, how many did you win?”

    “Eighty-five.”

    The judge raised his shaggy brows. “That is a good record. Were you a champion?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “What sort of champion?”

    “Seventy-five, ninety, and one fourteen.”

    The judge tilted his head, then grinned a little. “No, son, I’m not talking weight classes. I meant what level of champion. City? State? National?”

    Carl nodded.

    “All three?”

    “Yes, sir. Junior Golden Gloves, PAL, and AAU.”

    Officer Watkins’s gun belt creaked as he leaned back. “That’s pretty good.”

    Carl relaxed a little. Talking boxing did that, made him feel like more than just a throwaway kid awaiting sentencing. Still, he could tell this judge viewed himself as a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy. A judge like this, he might throw you in a dungeon for life or let you go scot-free, either way, just to see the look on your face.

    The judge said, “When I asked if you were a boxer, you said ‘was’ rather than ‘is.’ Is that correct?”

    “Yes, sir. Was.”

    “Was, then. Have you retired?”

    “It’s just, I keep moving so much. I haven’t been able to fight—box—for a while.”

    “Indeed.”

    Velma returned and handed the judge his coffee. “Thank you, dear,” he said. “Mr. and Mrs. Rhoades, are you sure you wouldn’t like some coffee? All right, then. Do you all have anything you’d like to say?”

    Carl’s new foster parents looked nervous. He wondered if they had ever been in a courtroom before. Probably not. He felt bad, dragging them in. Mr. Rhoades had almost certainly missed work, and Carl could see Mrs. Rhoades had been crying. She told the judge they hadn’t known Carl long, but he’d been a good boy, very respectful, and Mr. Rhoades nodded. Listening to them, Carl felt a renewed pang of loss. Things could have been good here. Really good.

    The judge thanked them, riffled through his papers, and said, “Carl, why did you hurt those boys?”

    Carl cleared his throat before saying, “They wouldn’t stop.”

    “Could you elaborate, please? I’m trying to decide your fate right now, and I’d like to think I gave you a chance to share your side of the story. I don’t know how it is back in Philadelphia, but it’s not every day I deal with a kid who’s beaten up half the football team. Wouldn’t you agree, Chief Watkins?”

    “Yes, Your Honor. I’d say this is downright idiosyncratic.”

    “Idiosyncratic, yes. So, Carl, do you mind telling me a little more about whatever it was that led up to this unfortunate incident?”

    “I was just sitting there, eating my lunch, and then I heard them laughing, and I looked over, and I saw this one kid—I think his name is Brad—picking on this little kid. Eli something.”

    “Yes,” the judge said. “Eli Barringer and Brad Templeton. Brad’s home from the hospital now, in case you were wondering. His jaw’s wired shut. He’ll be sipping breakfast, lunch, and dinner through a straw for the next six months, according to his father. Did you know them?”

    “Sir?”

    This judge asked questions like a slick boxer used a jab. You never saw them coming, and just when you thought you’d found your rhythm, he knocked you off-balance again.

    “This boy, Eli, for instance. Was he a friend of yours?”

    “No, sir.”

    “You just decided to defend him, then. And did you know Brad Templeton?”

    “No, sir.”

    “What I’m trying to comprehend is why you would do something like this. No grudge to settle; no attachment to the victim. Why don’t you tell me a little more about how it all happened? Maybe even why.”

    “I don’t know.” Carl remembered Eli’s thick glasses, his hunched body, and worst of all, his smile—his braces full of white bread and peanut butter. “I just . . . I don’t like bullies. I mean, I can’t stand them. They were making fun of this kid, and he was sitting there, laughing, because he didn’t know what was going on, and everybody kept laughing at him, so I got up and walked over and told them to stop.”

    “By them you are referring to Brad Templeton?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “An interesting choice of words, them. This is not the first time something like this has happened.”

    Carl shook his head.

    “I’ve read your records, son. It took me a good portion of yesterday evening. I must say, to employ Chief Watkins’s terminology, that I found your history rather idiosyncratic.”

    They looked at each other for a second, and the judge said, “Carl, you’ve been in eighteen different placements in the last four years, and that’s not counting short stays like the place where you got that jumpsuit you’re wearing. Eighteen. A dozen and a half foster homes, group homes, and juvenile detention facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, and”—he glanced down at the papers—“Idaho. How was Idaho?”

    “Cold, sir.”

    “Cold, yes. I’d imagine. You’ve accumulated one of the longest rap sheets I’ve ever seen for a juvenile, and you’ve only just turned sixteen. And yet something stands out to me. They’re all, every last one of them, the same charge—assault—each stemming from the same sort of situation that brought you before me. Someone gave someone else a hard time, and you took it upon yourself to teach him a lesson. Good God, son, I lost track of how many people you have assaulted. And it’s not just other children. Oh no. You’ve punched foster parents and teachers and mall security and even a police officer. A police officer? Son, don’t you have a brain?”

    Carl looked down. “He had some skateboarder up against the monkey bars, and he kept yelling at the kid and slamming him into the bars, so—”

    “Stop,” the judge said. “There is no so when you don’t like something a police officer is doing. You had no role in that situation. You’re lucky he didn’t shoot you. I would have shot you. Chief, wouldn’t you have shot him?”

    “Hands like that? Yeah, I’d have shot him.”

    Carl wished these two would drop the cutesy act and get down to business. The longer he sat here, the more it felt like disaster brewing.

    The judge said, “I don’t know whose decision it was to move you all the way down here to North Carolina and drop you into Jessup High, but I intend to find out, and I further intend to have his hide nailed to my shed by sundown.” He glanced at Velma, and she nodded and made a note on a clipboard. “You are a rare person, Carl Freeman. Other than fighting, your record is absolutely spotless. No theft, no drugs, no underage drinking. If it weren’t for the fighting, you’d look like a candidate for the glee club.”

    Carl had heard all of this before. “I don’t look for trouble. . . . If they would just stop.”

    The judge tented his fingers and narrowed his eyes. “Very interesting, Carl. Very interesting, indeed. You said it again. They. Do you feel these people—Brad, the policeman in Ohio—are all in on this together? Part of some club or something?”

    “I’m not crazy.”

    The judge tapped the stack of papers before him. “Your record implies otherwise, I’m afraid. Either you are insane or, at the very least, downright idiosyncratic. It’s like you have a superhero complex or something. Mild-mannered schoolboy by day, raging lunatic by night.”

    Heat rose through Carl’s chest and into his face, and his knuckles began to ache again. Why didn’t anybody understand? “If I don’t stop them, nobody will. Not the kids, not the teachers, nobody. Everybody just sits back and watches. The kids pretend they think it’s funny, because they’re too scared to say anything, and the teachers pretend they don’t see it because they’re too lazy to do anything. What am I supposed to do?”

    “Lower your voice,” Chief Watkins said. He was still leaned back with his big forearms crossed over his chest, but his eyes bore hard into Carl’s.

    The judge patted the air. “That’s okay, Chief. I’m glad the boy’s letting his hair down.” Then, to Carl, he said, “Now, these boys you attacked, Brad Templeton and the others, they’re well known in the community. Put on car washes, sell candy bars door-to-door, you might know the type. Their mothers and fathers, I see them at the Elks Club on Friday evenings. In the fall, we show up a bit later on Friday nights. See, football is quite popular here in our little corner of the world. Disturbingly so, in fact. It approaches religion at times. You can see the sort of trouble you’ve caused me?”

    Carl nodded, thinking, Here it comes. The jabbing’s over; here comes the KO punch.

    The judge continued. “Jessup’s football season is over before it even got going. The boys with broken noses will be okay, but the ones with busted ribs and wired jaws are out for the season. There are on that team other kids, good kids counting on football scholarships. Who will even scout a team with the record Jessup’s going to have this year? No one, that’s who. So these boys, instead of going on to college, they’ll just mow lawns and load cases of beer into people’s trunks for the rest of their lives.” The judge stared directly into Carl’s eyes, and for the first time, Carl saw anger there. “These are the real victims of your crime. They might not even know it, but I know it, and you know it, and their parents know it. The town is screaming for your blood, son. They’d like to string you up on the fifty-yard line and then feed what’s left to the pigs.”

    “I’m sorry about those other kids.” Carl lowered his head. He was sorry. They had never crossed his mind. Worse still, he wasn’t sure he could have stopped himself even if they had.

    “I believe you are—sorry about them, I mean—but what interests me is, are you sorry about the other boys, too, the ones you hurt?”

    Carl remembered the deep green mountainside beyond the cafeteria windows, rags of fog lifting away like departing ghosts. A strange world far from home, everything darkness and void. Remembered the boys, their cruelty, their laughter when he’d told them to stop. Remembered the fight, all of them coming at him, and then . . . kids on the floor, bleeding, Carl turning himself in.

    He raised his eyes and shook his head.

    The judge’s mouth went thin. “I didn’t think so. While I commend your honesty, I must publicly acknowledge that a criminal who shows no remorse for his crimes is, of course, a criminal likely to perpetrate those same crimes in the future. With those hands of yours, I could charge you with assault with a deadly weapon. Eight counts. Forget the juvenile detention center. Chief Watkins would drive you straight to the state penitentiary, where you could serve out a sentence of, oh, a decade or two, right alongside full-grown men. Does that sound good to you?”

    “No, sir.”

    “Or I could hand you over to Windy Pines. They’d put you in a padded cell and drug you up so heavily you wouldn’t be able to tie your own shoes. Do you like the sound of that?”

    “No, sir.”

    “The trouble is, I have to live with whatever decision I make here today, and despite your singular idiosyncrasy, I believe you have the potential to become a good man someday. Your father was killed in the line of duty?”

    “He died as a result of wounds sustained in the line of duty.” If it sounded like a line Carl had said before, it was. Many times.

    The judge sighed. “Carl, it is my belief that you are at the present time, regardless of your potential, incapable of controlling your temper should the aforementioned situation arise again.”

    Carl nodded.

    “Judges in the past have taken every approach, from absolute leniency to draconian severity. Nothing has worked. And yet, you have within you this potential. Even your criminal acts have a certain nobility about them, as if you ascribe to a higher code than the rest of humanity. But make no mistake; they are crimes. In light of these factors—the nature and number of your crimes, your seeming inability to control your temper, and the positive potential I see in every other aspect of your character and behavior—I hereby sentence you to Phoenix Island, a military-style boot camp, the term of confinement to begin immediately and to end at the date of your eighteenth birthday, at which point in time you will either return to North Carolina to serve out the remainder of your sentence, a term of six months to three years, at the state penitentiary, or you will earn placement through Phoenix Island, at which time this court will declare your debt paid in full and will furthermore expunge your juvenile record.”

    Carl swallowed with difficulty. Jail or freedom. Nothing in between.

    “There is no parole from Phoenix Island. It is a terminal facility, meaning you will remain there until you are legally an adult. Fail to learn from this opportunity, and I predict you will spend the rest of your life in and out of prison. If, however, you make the most out of this situation, and you learn to give others a second chance, just as I have given you here today, you will be able to lead a good life as a productive member of our society. You get control of that temper of yours, and I think you’d make one hell of a cop.”

    “Thank you, sir.”

    The judge looked Carl dead in the eyes. “There will come a day, son, when you will need to determine exactly who it is you intend to be.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    The judge finished his coffee, set the empty cup on Carl’s file, and turned to the others. “Questions?”

    Ms. Snyder asked for the location and visiting hours.

    Yeah, right, Carl thought. If there were two things you learned as an orphan, they were endings and beginnings. Mr. and Mrs. Rhoades were no more likely to visit than were Carl’s dead parents.

    The judge closed the matter. “I’m afraid that’s confidential, Ms. Snyder, and irrelevant, as well. Phoenix Island allows no contact with the outside world.”

  • Meet 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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    Phoenix Island 4.5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 19 reviews.
    MichaelScar More than 1 year ago
    It has been so long since I have had time enough to read a book that wasn't assigned by an instructor to be read for class, or isn't a textbook. Phoenix Island was an excellent read that has reawakened my want to read books for fun. This story is packed to the brim with action and so full of emotion that it was difficult for me to take my mind off the plot when I wasn't not reading, and proved to be almost impossible for me to put it down every time that I began reading it. Carl Freeman is such a strong and lively character (as are the rest of the characters that are included in this book) that has such a tragically sad backstory, that it's hard to believe that this book is a fictional piece. John Dixon lays out the storyline in such a vividly descriptive manner that he enables the reader to accompany Carl on his hectic and challenging stay on Phoenix Island. Great book!
    KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Carl Freeman has not had an easy moment in his life from losing his parents at an early age to bouncing around the foster care system because he just can't help sticking up for those being bullied - but was something bigger in the works?   Carl was a character that from the beginning I grew to love and fight for - I wanted what was best for him.  I loved the different characters beyond Carl, they were all crafted so perfectly to revolve around him and the struggles that he was facing.  The concept of this far away camp that raises boys to be mercenaries isn't far from reality in parts of the world and it was hard at times to read and realize that thought.  
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    For violence (torture, bullying, beatings, etc.) and sadistic militants who are deviously twisted... obviously they have no souls. Very well written but definitely not for the faint of heart.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Started out strong but quickly became tiresome. Lots of emotional over explained banter. Hardy boy adventure.
    Rustyshingle More than 1 year ago
    Very good book. reminded me of the unwind series. Well written great plot. I look forward to sequel. Story is about an orphan who gets in trouble with the law and sent to an island with tuff love type training. Things become not only tuff but deadly and the characters find themselves in a situation of fight or die. After all who will miss an orphan? Recommended.
    lg22 More than 1 year ago
    Great original story and characters.  I purchased the audio version and Kirby Heyborne did a fantastic job!
    mysticrosetiger More than 1 year ago
    This book was a great read. If you like action, adventure, thriller, suspense and so much more then this books for you.
    jayfwms More than 1 year ago
    Exciting and hard to put down. The story of a remote island and the "boot camp" activities supposedly to remake troubled adolescents, is graphically told with no details spared. Even as the fabled phoenix rose from its ashes as a new creation, the troubled youngsters are to remake themselves into a new and different person. The question is: What is the new person to be? The action continues from one page to the next, and the suspense builds as Carl begins to understand the true nature of the camp. As you plunge deeper into the story, you can't imagine how it could turn out. The ending is a real surprise, but entirely consistent with the development of the characters. I highly recommend this book, but warn you it will be difficult to put down until you reach the end.
    Shot-Dodger_80 More than 1 year ago
    Great first book to kick off the series. I couldn't put it down and can't wait for the sequel. This is the book that inspired the new CBS TV show Intelligence. The book is very different from the show and Dixon is an awesome story teller.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Great novel from start to finish! A page-turner that will keep you in suspense! I hope there is a sequel soon, even trilogy in the works! Great debut novel for an upcoming author!
    Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
    I was foolish to try to read this book before going to bed. Wild vivid dreams left me tossing and turning all night as I was trapped on Phoenix Island with Carl. Not the sweatbox! Please, no!! I had started to read this book as we drove through the state of Illinois and my “ahh!” and ”no’s!” started to irritate my husband as he tried to listen to the radio. Carl has a temper, a vicious temper. Using boxing as a means for channeling his temper, Carl has made himself a name in the boxing arena. Carl sticks up for individuals who are being bullied, which has earned him a decent-sized police record. You would think that this act would be a notable trait but with Carl things are not that way. His latest attack is the last straw and his future is in jeopardy. For Carl and for others orphans with no other options available, they are headed off to Phoenix Island. A boot camp for troubled teens, this secluded island is far from a tropical paradise. Phoenix Island is nothing like you/I could ever imagine nor is it like anything I have ever seen on television. I have seen those reality shows where they try to scare teens straight by screaming at them, making them work endlessly and in the end, they discharge them hoping their tactics paid off. Phoenix Island takes teens and their transformation will astonish you. With alterative motives and an unconventional discipline style, the management keeps close reins on their charges. Carl sees this new change of scenery as a place to start anew. As I was fighting my way through this book with Carl, loving the confrontations, the action, the excitement never let up. Carl was having a hard time making it in North Carolina but he must learn to put his emotions in check if he is going to come off this island alive. Carl had a good heart; it’s just that he did not know how to use it. As Carl lives his life, he tries to live by the words his father and his trainer instilled in him but sometimes he needs he stop and think about those words and not act prematurely. It’s the imagery that the author instills in you as the words flow off the page that makes this book hard to put down. As Carl gets off the plane and meets Parker (anger was building up inside of me already) to where I was squirming and swatting at the invisible bugs crawling over me as I witnessed the horrors of the sweatbox, I was a part of Phoenix Island. It would not become more real. I was as desperate to escape that island as Carl. I wanted the ordeal to end but I did not want the book to end as I wanted to know more about Carl and what his future entailed. This was definitely a book that I talked to, a book I read every detail and a book I hope there is a sequel to. Grab this one fast, you will not be disappointed. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for an honest opinion. Thanks NetGalley.
    jewelknits More than 1 year ago
    Phoenix Island is billed as young adult, but this cross-over debut novel is one for any reader who loves action, nuance, a character-driven plot (yes, in SPITE of all the action) and rooting for the underdog in the face of overwhelming odds. Carl is the orphaned son of a police officer, a championship boxer who finds himself in a string of foster homes, moved from state to state, until, at 16, he once again beats up a gang of bullies and faces the end of the line - a stay until he is 18 years old - at Phoenix Island, a seemingly military-style boot camp for troubled teens. Once Carl arrives at Phoenix Island, he finds that it is an isolated place outside of the United States, surrounded by a forest populated by wild pigs and shark-infested ocean waters. In spite of his resolution to remain "invisible" and to stay out of trouble, he manages to catch the ire of a particularly vicious "drill sergeant" named Parker as well as a group of gangbangers. Eventually, he runs across a secret journal written by a former teen "soldier" that makes him realize that the suffering he has experienced and seen done to others is only the tip of the iceberg. If, as a reader, you think to yourself, "Well, thrillers and action aren't really my cup of tea", think again when it comes to this book. As I read, I experienced so many emotions - the enjoyment of a story well-told, agony at the unfairness of the situation Carl and his new friends find themselves in, knowing that some of the things portrayed really happen and not being able to hop into the pages to make it stop. Your heart will absolutely drop in places. When you meet the Old Man, Commander Stark, you want to like him, and blame everything else on some misunderstanding, just like Carl does, but as a reader, there is foreboding in these pages - you just know with a sinking, creeping feeling that all is not as it seems. I fairly FLEW through these pages, filled with a moving motion picture in my brain of the island, the kids, the sergeants, the commander, and the mysterious doctor at the "Chop Shop". The book is totally engrossing, rolling along at a clip that had me looking at how many pages were left and regretting that I was so close to the end. I've seen this one compared to Lord of the Flies and to The Hunger Games by some. For me it brought to mind the horrors of The Island of Dr. Moreau totally revamped with modern technology and world domination fanatics. This is an absolutely stunning debut novel - one that would be a fabulous ride for almost every reader. With room left for a new installment, I sincerely hope to see more of Carl, his friends, and even creepy Commander Stark. QUOTES: You are all orphans. Why had they taken only orphans? He thought of the kick he had received, the rough handling of Davis. He glanced around. Here they were, on Phoenix Island, somewhere outside of the United States and its laws. We're as dead to the world as our parents, Carl thought. These people can do anything to us. . . . teachers told you bullies were insecure and cowardly, and, sure, some were. But guys like Decker, guys who got that look in their eyes, were neither insecure nor cowardly, and they weren't acting out for attention. Guys like Decker were confident and tough and mean to the core, and they hurt people because they liked causing pain. "He considers himself a musician of pain. A maestro. Pain is his piano, and the victim's nerves are his piano strings." Great, Carl thought. I threatened to break his nose. BLOGGERS: Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review. Writing: 4.5 out of 5 stars Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars Characters: 5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 5 out 5 stars BOOK RATING: 4.75 out of 5 stars Sensitive Reader: Probably not for you; portrayals of violence and implied violence. Book Club Recommendation: Yes; depending on whether all book club members can take a grim and gritty portrayal of a camp filled with teens subject to horrid conditions
    MThomas1975 More than 1 year ago
    Hands Down the Most Unique and Brilliant Young Adult Book I've Ever Had the Joy of Reading I must admit that the reason I requested Phoenix Island for review was because I had seen previews for Intelligence, the upcoming show the book inspired. See based on the book blurb, Phoenix Island isn't exactly my cup of tea. For one I'm not big on young adult books and if I do read something in the genre, it's urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Phoenix Island is neither of those things but I took a chance because I was intrigued. Boy am I glad I took that chance. Phoenix Island was emotionally gripping, dark, gritty, intense, and chock full of awesome. I was hooked from the first chapter where I met Carl Freeman, an orphan with anger issues and 18 assault arrests under his belt. At sixteen years old he's been in-and-out of foster care, bounced from one-state-to- another, and been in various different juvenile facilities. Thing is Carl is a good kid. He's just misguided, alone, and refuses to let anyone be bullied if he can stop it. Then Carl is sentenced to a military bootcamp facility called Phoenix Island where he will stay until he's eighteen. From the opening introduction to Carl's new home, the sadistic Drill Sargent he immediately pisses off, and the creeptastic zombied-out kid he sees off in the distance, Carl notices Phoenix Island just may be hell on Earth. Sadly that thought isn't far off track. It's hard to make friends in a place where everyone seems out to get you, but Carl pushes through and eventually makes a couple; a wise-cracking boy named Ross and a strange girl named Octavia. I was blown away by the depth of depravity these unfortunate, "throwaway" kids were put through on Phoenix Island and more than once I kept thinking of the closing lyrics to Hotel California by The Eagles, "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave". Poor Carl hoped Phoenix Island would turn him into a different person; he just wasn't expecting to lose himself in the process. Hands down the most unique and brilliant young adult book I've ever had the joy of reading, Phoenix Island, is part psychological thriller and part science fiction. I am hooked! After that cliffhanger ending, I can't wait to see what happens to Carl next. I'm also curious what this book and the show Intelligence will actually have in common as they seem so very different. *eARC PROVIDED BY GALLERY BOOKS VIA NETGALLEY*
    devil_gurl More than 1 year ago
    When I first read this book blurb I was immediately draw to the story. I’ve always been a fan of conspiracy theory, secret organizations and action. Also I really liked the idea of a bunch of delinquents being sent to a military style boot camp with the promise of a clean slate when they reached 18 and a chance to join the military if they do well on the island. But be warned, despite of the age of these kids this is no children’s book and it’s not for faint hearted. The author paid great attention to details at exactly the right moment and things skimmed over when necessary. Without revealing too much of the plot let’s just say they are not disciplining but hand-picking them for a mercenary army. Escape from the island is nearly impossible, they are constantly bullying by the drill sergeants and they are being pushed into becoming savages. The story is told mostly from Carl’s POV. He’s a former boxing champion and despite having a rap sheet the size of a phone book he doesn’t fight just for the sake of it, it’s just that he can’t stand bully and injustice. What I enjoyed the most was that he fights with his mind and he stayed true to himself despite the fact that his principles are challenged again and again. He stands up to all that is wrong, even willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of others As for the other characters most of them were underdeveloped except maybe for drill sergeant Parker, the old man (which are good villains!) and Octavia. In her case she’s more developed than the others because she got some chapters from her POV, still I wish we knew more about her. Reading this book is very much like riding a roller coaster without being attached! It twists and turns at speeds that make you’re going to fly off track. John Dixon keeps in under control and manages the speed and tension with a sure hand, which I found impressive for a debut novel! The story is intensely riveting and disturbing at the same time. Everything is easy to visualize because Dixon have a way of describing in vivid details. You can close your eyes and easily imagine the fight scenes. I found myself devouring the book in only a day and I was satisfied with the ending but I wouldn’t mind a sequel, I think there’s still a lot that could be explored about the Phoenix force. I can only hope the show based on the book will be as good. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for John Dixon’s next book!
    DiiMI More than 1 year ago
    Gritty, dark, magnetic! Phoenix Island by John Dixon takes crime and punishment and delivers a twisted knock-out punch that will leave you reeling long after that last page is finished! Carl Freeman is a sixteen-year-old orphan who has been bounced around the system “we” have designed to protect children like him. His temper often gets the best of him, but his intentions are good, as he repeatedly stand up to bullying with his fists, making his juvenile record as thick as Webster’s Dictionary, with almost as many entries. His “last chance” for rehabilitation is a remote, boot camp style facility, that if he tows the line, does his time, will clear his record and start him on a new life as a productive citizen. But what truly goes on at Phoenix Island? Are the depths of depravity, the sadistic leaders, the brutality of the punishments and the “training” a well-guarded secret? Does anyone ever leave the island and truly rise like the fiery re-birth of the mythical Phoenix? Will Carl’s need to protect those who need protection become his death sentence? Are these “recruits,” all delinquent orphans with no one to wonder about them ever released? What happens on the other side of the island? Are these kids actually more like petri dishes for the growth of scientific horrors? John Dixon can write! He can create a world where sweat, blood and tears are real, pain is felt and life is terrifying. Mr. Dixon has given us characters that are alive and breathing, with unique personalities, quirks and ticks that you can find on any busy street, at any time. His characters are damaged, yet some have the inner strength to question, take risks, make stands, learn loyalty, and risk it all to try to do what needs to be done. There are leaders, followers, and the just plain terrified. I felt for every single one of them, and the life they were ensnared in. When you find an author with an amazing story, you read it, you recommend it, you remember it, you wonder what happened to the characters after that last page. Phoenix Island is one of those books for me. I received an ARC edition from Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books in exchange for my honest review.
    MommaStein More than 1 year ago
    It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book for pleasure rather than necessity.  Not that I would have missed this one! Dixon has created such a vivid page-turner that I was immediately swept into Carl’s world.  Carl Freeman is both victim and righteous hero.  His strength, courage, and sense of honor resound on the page. Carl’s ruthless reaction to bullies of any size makes him a frequent target; keeping his head down is just not an option for a character of such moral fiber.   I felt completely compelled by his honor and the weight of the pull of his obligation to protect.  Dixon brings us into a world not only of torture and brutality but one that brings our worst fears of government conspiracy theories to life.  He makes it too easy to conceive of a future where a place like Phoenix Island, operating outside the boundaries of US law, can actually exist.  When moral and judicial boundaries no longer apply; when medical and technological deviance merge; when salvation relies on the virtuousness of our flawed and youthful hero, does Carl possess the strength and resolve to stop them?    I'm excited to learn that this is first in a series, ultimately leading us into the Intelligence story line, where we can see the technology used to its fully evolved potential.  I can hardly wait for the next chapter in Carl’s story. Let’s see what Dixon has in store for us next …
    PrettyInFiction More than 1 year ago
    Phoenix Island by John Dixon is the terrifying story of what happens when sixteen year old boxing champion Carl Freeman gets sent away to a camp for juvenile delinquents. Unfortunately for him, the camp is run by a bunch of psychotic soldiers planning on taking over the world, and they'll do anything, including murdering the teenagers in their care, to accomplish their goals! Phoenix Island reminds me of a movie I watched once, Boot Camp, with Mila Kunis and Gregory Smith. That movie has stuck with me since I watched it because of its sheer brutality. It's what made me have to read Phoenix Island after reading the synopsis. And Phoenix Island pulls no punches when it comes to brutality. The kids on Phoenix Island are abused and beaten and brainwashed to become killing machines. They are taught not to think and are threatened if they don't follow a command. They're threatened if they do follow a command. Phoenix Island is full of nothing but pain, torture, and injustice and it's really hard to read about at times. The novel is full of abuse and death and horrible acts of violence, and not one of the adults sees any of it as wrong. But that's what makes you have to keep reading. You have to see how these teenagers, these children, will survive when the whole world is against them. Carl, despite being a fighter who is sent away to a reform camp for bad kids, is sort of the opposite of a bad kid. He's a kid who's had a hard life, a kid who could whine about how unfair it all is, but doesn't. A kid who's got enough training behind his punches to do all sorts of damage, but instead only uses his fists on bullies. He's a kid who only wants to help people, and he's sent to a place that only wants to hurt people. He's a true hero in a land of villains and someone you can root for. Octavia surprised me in this novel. Usually the girls in these sorts of stories come across hard and bitter, but Octavia, for all her strength and courage, was never bitter or hard. Sure, she had times when she felt like she was slipping in that direction, but she never gave in. Never let her circumstances get her down. I loved that we got to see her point of view in this story. I wasn't expecting it, but I loved reading her chapters just as much as I loved Carl's. There were many other side characters throughout Phoenix Island that I came to like, even love. There was Ross, Carl's friend who was more comedian than soldier. The older boy, Cambell, who was only in the book for a short time, but was a great friend and ally. Especially since they were in a place where allies were few and far between and sticking your neck out for someone else might just get it chopped off. Medicaid, a poor boy who was bullied to the brink of insanity. I felt so bad for poor Medicaid. He wasn't brave or strong or fierce, but he deserved to not be tormented the way he was. A lot of the focus in Phoenix Island is put on bullying and the effects it can have when left unchecked and it is severely disturbing. Medicaid's character was a great example of how bad bullying is and what can happen when adults look the other way. Phoenix Island is actually the inspiration behind CBS's new hit drama Intelligence, starring that other guy who was once trapped on an island, Josh Holloway. Love him, but haven't seen the show yet. I've heard it's really great, but has been reworked so much that it has little to do with the novel anymore. I will be watching it at some point, just to see if anything from Phoenix Island remains in the series. Inspirational, yet terrifying, Phoenix Island is not for the faint of heart. It's full of non-stop cruelty and violence from the very beginning. But, if you can stomach brutal beatings, torture, giant insects, shark attacks and many other things I won't be listing for fear of spoilers, then, at its heart, Phoenix Island is about a bunch of teenagers trying to survive an impossible situation and I highly recommend it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Picked this one up after seeing it at the bookstore. Quick read, and enjoyable; though a bit predictable. Really don't see how they got the show Intelligence out of it, but oh well...