Jan 8, 2014

Phoenix Island by John Dixon Review

Phoenix Island by John Dixon
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books; 320 pages
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. . .

 Every time I read a book told from a male's perspective, I always find myself asking why I don't read more books from a male point of view.  I guess because I am a female, my mind subconsciously tells me that I couldn't possibly enjoy a book about a male's life.  But that really couldn't be further from the truth.  It could also be because I assume (and usually assume incorrectly) that a book with a male pov, wouldn't have much romance in it.  And I really enjoy romantic aspects in books.  But once again, that's just a stereotype that I need to squash from my brain.

Phoenix Island is a wild ride.  I picked this book up at New York Comic Con back in October last year.  I must say, that I really do enjoy books published by Gallery Books.  They are targeted to an older young adult audience.  So they are definitely right up my alley.  This book is a tough book not to like.  Immediately I took a liking to Carl the main character.  He's not your typical troubled youth.  Carl sticks up for people, and he hates bullies.  I really wish that I knew someone like Carl when I was in high school.  Bullies are not fun, and to have someone that defends bullies at your school would have been nice.

Carl's violence scares me a bit.  He knew exactly what to do to take down opponents, even those bigger than him.  After I finished reading this book, I looked at the author's bio and saw that he was a boxer.  And everything really clicked into place.  The fight scenes in this book are written so well, and it's because it comes from experience.  I love it when authors write what they know.  It always translates so well onto paper.

The land Phoenix Island itself is just scary.  If I were sent there, I wouldn't last a day.  I'd be sent to the Chop Shop the very first week.  The Chop Shop is the hospital.  Now I only briefly glanced at the summary when I picked up this book.  I seriously was sold by the first couple of sentences written on the back cover of the ARC copy.  So I actually didn't really know what was truly going on.  And the ARC copy didn't have the full description that the final cover of the book has.  So as I was reading, I was truly surprised at what was going on behind the scenes on the island.  I had come up with some theories of my own, which ended up being completely wrong.  But I love when things take me for surprise.  It's never fun when you can figure out a mystery while reading a book.

But even though Carl's violence scared me, his compassion is really what drew me in.  His relationships with those surrounding him, both Ross and Octavia show the kind of person that he truly is.  I do wish that there had been more Octavia in the book.  A little romance never hurts a book.  And there was definitely romance.  Now the ending of this book isn't necessarily an ending that I would have wanted, but it's an ending that I can respect.  But it leaves me wanting more!  I wish this wasn't a standalone.  Because I can definitely see this story continuing.


  1. I'm always on the lookout for male POV and standalones so this book sounds up my alley. Carl sounds like an interesting character.

  2. I agree that the fight scenes were written really well. I love that in a story- so many times I end up skimming through fight scenes because they don't make any sense, but these flowed well and were mentally intriguing. I never knew there was so much strategy in boxing!


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