Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books
Phoenix Island follows Carl, a young man whose penchant for beating up bullies lands him in trouble again and again. The latest trouble gets him sent to Phoenix Island a last chance to reform and join society. The island is not what Carl expects. It is run by sadists and bullies and though he decides to buckle down and just tough it out, that gets harder by the day as Parker, the Drill Sargent who runs the Island pushes him harder and harder. When Carl thinks he has it figured out, the rules change again and the stakes are raised higher than he could have imagined.
Reading this book is very much like riding a roller coaster. It twists and turns at speeds that make you sure that it is going to fly off track. John Dixon keeps in under control and manages the speed and tension with a sure hand. The character of Carl and the others is forged in the fire of the Island. He is believable and likable but he is constantly forced to make horrific choices.
In spite of the age of the people at the camp, kids younger than eighteen, this is no children’s book. In many ways it reminded me of Lord of the Flies, but with a stronger plot to drive the action. I recommend the book to anyone who likes a book that is hard to put down and yet still wrestles with deep issues of ethics and identity.