Find them at a local indie!
- Why I read them: Good old fashioned chills, juvenile delinquents
- Disclosure: Received both as part of a Solitary book tour - thanks!
Furnace Penitentiary: the world’s most secure prison for young offenders, buried a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, sentenced to life without parole, “new fish” Alex Sawyer knows he has two choices: find a way out, or resign himself to a death behind bars, in the darkness at the bottom of the world. Except in Furnace, death is the least of his worries. Soon Alex discovers that the prison is a place of pure evil, where inhuman creatures in gas masks stalk the corridors at night, where giants in black suits drag screaming inmates into the shadows, where deformed beasts can be heard howling from the blood-drenched tunnels below. And behind everything is the mysterious, all-powerful warden, a man as cruel and dangerous as the devil himself, whose unthinkable acts have consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the prison. Together with a bunch of inmates—some innocent kids who have been framed, others cold-blooded killers—Alex plans an escape. But as he starts to uncover the truth about Furnace’s deeper, darker purpose, Alex’s actions grow ever more dangerous, and he must risk everything to expose this nightmare that’s hidden from the eyes of the world.Why isn't there more YA horror? There's some creepy, sure, and a glut of terrifying dystopia a la The Hunger Games - but where's the make-your-blood-run-cold-sweat-in-the-middle-of-the-nightmare kind of horror? The kind that keeps me racing to the finish and awake for hours after I reach it? It's a genre that seems to be almost entirely targeted to adults, even when many of the characters are kids and teens. (Think Danny from The Shining.) The marketing gap here has never made sense to me, but I'm even more confused after Lockdown and Solitary, the pulse-pounding, compulsively readable, and terrific novels that make up two-thirds of the Escape from Furnace trilogy.
Beyond my philosophical musings, these books were just plain fun. They're quick, full of cliffhangers, and genuinely terrifying. I'm not easily scared by books (movies are another story), but descriptions like this from page 39 of Solitary - "No trees, no life, other than the cluster of grinning forms standing before us, so close that we could make out the silver eyes and black suits, the rusting masks and filthy trench coats, the glistening lips peeled back past canine teeth." - are meant to be shivered over. The action doesn't slow down for a second between Lockdown and Solitary, and despite problems I had with sloppy writing and Alex's melodrama in places, I was too sucked in to really care - always a good sign. I don't usually say that books would "be great for reluctant readers," because I hate that label, but this would indeed be a good book for someone easily bored by books: I highly doubt they'll have that problem with these.
All in all, it's not high literature, it's not a work of genius, and that's okay. It's a solidly scary and entertaining read, and sometimes that's all I'm asking for. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the third book, Death Sentence! Four out of five stars.