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.
This book sounded so good that I couldn't wait to borrow it from a friend and devour it. Sadly the teeth marks that I left in the binding were due to frustration about how much I disliked this book!
This book was more like the Boot Camp Diaries than a dystopian thriller. A group of juvenile criminals unwanted by society for various alleged crimes are dumped on an island boot camp where they need to survive until being released at 18. We had military marches, military discipline, military songs, military chants, military officers bullying the recruits, asshat kids trying to kill the new arrivals...It was just BORING. Page after page of military orders and marches just destroyed half my brain cells. There was plenty violence and brutality but I felt it was just shoved in for shock value as it did little to advance the lack of plot. The plot itself just seemed to be bad people abuse kids in violent ways, over and over. It's not much to keep you entertained or engaged.
There were no characters that I gave a damn about. They were all rude and obnoxious and you just wanted a bunch of rabid jungle animals to rush out and eat everyone. Carl, our hero has serious anger management issues and likes to beat people up. OK so he beats up thugs, but the point is, he was warned to behave or be dumped out of society but he chooses not to listen and then moans about his punishment. His violence puts people in hospital which basically means he is a dangerous thug who will kill someone some day and the judge is tired of giving him chances to reform. The characters never felt likable or developed in any way and were pretty one dimensional. They are a really boring bunch who talk nonsense most of the time.
So how did the author decide to liven things up? Our hero Carl goes all instaluv with a female he meets there. Oh goodee! Not. This cliche just makes my brain explode! As romance goes, there was no chemistry and it felt so out of place that I wondered what the point was. I felt as if the author had a checklist of things he felt he needed to add to the book and was stubbornly shoving them in regardless of whether or not it would fit the story.
This book did not work for me on any level. It was one of the poorer books that I read in the genre and I have no interest in reading anything else by the author.