Posted in All Book Reviews, Science fiction, Young adult

Book Review: Phoenix Island (By John Dixon)

I had added Pheonix Island to my TBR pile all the way back when the show Intelligence had come out, primarily because its theme was supposedly based on this book. Although I eventually learned that the two are pretty different (and Intelligence didn’t really take off), the book stayed on my list and I eventually got around to it last month.

Read on to know how it turned out.


Young Adult, Sci-fi


320 pages


Carl Freeman is sixteen years old. He’s a champion boxer who has immense skill, but who finds himself repeatedly in trouble and being moved from foster home to foster home because of his short temper. Quick to jump in and defend weaker classmates from bullies, Carl’s distaste for those who abuse their strength leads to him ending up in court. And the judge sentences him to Pheonix Island, where repeat offenders like him – who have no home, no family, and no future – are sent for a Spartan-style boot camp until the age of eighteen. Phoenix Island was supposed to be where Carl would train to control his temper, to direct it better. But Phoenix Island turns out to be something completely different. Off United States land and untouched by its laws, the island is run by sadistic drill sergeants worse than any bully Carl has met. The children are pushed beyond their physical and mental limits, and those that break are sent to the ‘chop shop’ – ground zero for the latest in combat intelligence. Except, no one is a willing participant, and the technology is still evolving. When Carl’s inability to bow to bullies lands him in trouble yet again, he discovers that the island is hiding more horror than he knew before. And when Carl is sent to the ‘chop shop’ as part of his growing list of punishments, he knows that a transformation awaits him. But after everything he’s seen, he doesn’t know what they’ll transform him into… nor if he wants to become what they want to turn him into.

Overall Rating:

7 out of 10 stars


8 out of 10 stars


7 out of 10 stars

Primary Element:

6 out of 10 stars for the science fiction, which was a given and not really explored

Writing Style:

8 out of 10

Part of a Series: 

Yes. This is Book #1 in the Phoenix Island series, followed by Devil’s Pocket.

Highlighted Takeaway:

An interesting premise, with a really likeable lead character, Phoenix Island is perfect for its primary, young-adult audience. Adults may find it less than perfect, but enjoyable nonetheless.

What I Liked:

There were three things that I really liked about the story and characters:

  • Attention to detail in the action scenes – John Dixon has been a boxer and his knowledge is evident in the details and specifics of the action scenes. If you follow any form of hand to hand combat, you will find the narrative very visual.
  • The story touches upon some serious moral and social issues (at both individual and wider levels), providing some great food for thought conveyed through character development and story advancement (instead of preaching prose).
  • Characterization was really good, with the evolution being easy to associate with.

What I Didn’t Like:

The only issue, I felt, the book had was its pacing – it was a bit slow, and I genuinely thought that just a bit more speed would have made it a page-turner.

Who Should Read It:

I would recommend Phoenix Island to anyone who enjoys young adult fiction (including adults who often or occasionally dabble in that genre).

Who Should Avoid:

Phoenix Island may not be the best choice for adults who are used to faster-paced, edge of your seat thrillers or those who haven’t read any young adult.

Read It For:

A very likable, warm-hearted main character whose story you will end up wanting to follow.

I don’t read a lot of young-adult, although I have found some quite enjoyable, such as David Baldacci’s The Keeper. Occasionally though, I do pick up a young-adult book, especially if it’s based around science-fiction or fantasy. Although I didn’t love Phoenix Island, I think it has many things that were highly enjoyable, and I definitely want to read the sequel and follow Carl’s story.

Share your thoughts on Phoenix Island or any young-adult recommendations in the comments below. And as always, thank you for stopping by and reading my review.

– Rishika