Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Phoenix Island by John Dixon

Phoenix Island by John Dixon- 2.5 STARS

Phoenix IslandSynopsis--The story that inspired CBS TV’s Intelligence. Phoenix Island was supposed to be a boot camp for troubled children. But as one boy learns, the secrets of this jungle are as vast as they are deadly.
When sixteen-year-old boxing champ Carl Freeman jumps in to defend a helpless stranger, he winds up in real trouble—a two-year sentence at an isolated boot camp for orphans. Carl is determined to tough it out, earn a clean record, and get on with his life. Then kids start to die.
Realizing Phoenix Island is actually a Spartan-style mercenary organization turning “throwaway kids” into super-soldier killers, Carl risks everything to save his friends and stop a madman bent on global destruction. 
* I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review from netgallet

Cover -- Okay 
Rating: PG 
Overall: Intriguing Idea but missed the mark for me
Characters:  Carl 
Page Turner: Sometimes
Series Cont.? No
Book Boyfriend: NONE
Genre:  Young Adult 
Sex Scenes: No
Setting - Island

Overall- I am not sure how I feel about this book. I didnt love, but I didnt hate it. I was disappointed with the ending, and much of the book in general, yet it was different, and inventive. It was intriguing and interesting at times, but also lacked what I consider continuous plot movement, and little character development. The story is heart breaking actually and yet inspiring  The idea, the premise is really interesting, and I would have LOVED to see what happens NEXT. Which I guess is where the new TV show will pick up. The book felt overly descriptive with little action occurring. In fact it reminded me of a few other books I've read lately, specifically Variant, in that the plot is really great, but its slow and disappointing in the end. The book reminded me a lot of Lord of the Flies. Which I hated. (I realize Im alone in that) But I think overall the book has a great message and Carl is a wonderful character, driven to help others. And I really want to like this book. I do. But I just cant. The more I think about it, the less I like the book, and the more I like the idea behind it. Honestly, what I liked about this book was the idea behind the camp, but nothing that happened while on the island. And the idea behind the "chip" and what happens, but nothing about Carls story to get there. The book reminded me a lot of Bourne Identity, except more like a prequel. I am in love with the idea and the plot but everything that actually happened, I didnt like. I havent had this type of feeling/reaction in a long while. 

Plot-The premise here is REALLY intriguing. Carl, after numerous run-ins with the law is sent to the Island. The Island however is not what it seems, its not just a boot camp to scare kids, all the kids are orphans, and its more like a military camp, Lord of the Flies style. Murder and fighting run rampant by the end of the book. The interesting part of this book comes maybe 35% in, where Carl learns some of the secrets held there. But the next 40% of the book are all about getting up to speed on the secret (and not in a knowledge way but more like physical training) the last 15% were interesting and gripping, all up until the ending, which was simply disappointing. I would have liked to see what happens next, rather than the entire novel being about the Island and the chip but the effects of the chip would have been of interest. I would have preferred a half and half (half on the island and about getting the chip the 2nd half on after the chip) I also struggled with quite a few of the side plot points especially the amount of violence and disturbing scenes. Dont get me wrong, violence doesnt gross me out, or scare me, but on some level, this felt wrong and it felt like it was very similiar to LOTF (see above) It felt like there was no order and only mayhem all around and I just didnt get it. In the sense, I just didnt see the point or necessity of the entire book being about the Island. The book also dragged, A LOT. It felt so slow at times, with excruciating detail. I didnt need to know about the training with Old Man. At all. In the end, I was happy when this book ended. 

Carl--I liked Carl overall. His will and ambition, his drive and his passion are really amazing. Its his personality that truly drives this book and this character is what makes the book interesting and kept my attention. He is strong willed, and determined. Hes not really an individual, but on the island, he is, because he is unwilling to follow suit with the other killers on the island. I think Carl's perseverance was what was amazing. Never giving up No matter what. His strength was great and quite amazing to read. But nonetheless, Carl couldnt make up for the other issues in this book for me. 

Supporting Characters-- Well, there were quite a few small characters. Roles that were necessary to make this book. Carls best friend was sweet. But it was obvious that nothing would really help this kid. He had a good heart but sometimes its not enough. Carls love interest was sweet, and it was clear that she was driven and passionate. I would have loved to see their interaction more. Parker, ugh, a necessary evilness on the island, nonetheless cruel and annoying. The Old Man, hmm...I liked him at first, thought he was intriguing and helpful but realized too late that he is actually selfish and cruel, quite the evil man, only looking out for himself. 

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