Phoenix Island by John Dixon
Publish Date: January 21, 2014
Rating: * * * *
Lord of the Flies meets The Brotherhood of the Rose meets Dead Poets Society
This is a chilling story of survival and humanity. Chilling because humans are capable of doing terrible things to each other. Survival because in order to survive, sometimes humans become inhuman. Humanity because humans are capable of rescuing each other and upholding each other’s safety, dignity, and sanity.
Carl Freeman, sentenced to 2 years at the Phoenix Island boot camp for juvenile offenders due to fighting one too many bullies, soon learns the judge was unwittingly correct about it being a “terminal” stop: kids die on Phoenix Island. Even more terrifying is that nobody on the outside knows or cares because everyone on the island is an orphan.
Carl finds that on Phoenix Island bullying is often rewarded. He learns that conformity would be easy, but maintaining one’s own identity and morality is both difficult and dangerous. He learns that friendship is both painful and necessary. He learns that contingencies, interpretations, could have turned his life into something entirely different. He learns that he needs to follow his own code of ethics, regardless of the cost to himself. Ironically, the island ultimately teaches him exactly what the court system wanted him to learn (albeit in a manner the court hopefully would not have sanctioned): to control his own behavior.
This is a difficult book, but an affirming one.
I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.