My summary: Alex was like any other boy. Go to school, hang out with his group, and control the monkey bars. But when he started stealing, his life changed for the worse. Out of nowhere, his best friend is murdered, and he is framed for it. he is sent to the child prison: a Hell hole. Worse than Hell. Furnace. When he's there, he is disgusted with the way people live. Kids do hard labor like chipping rock. Gangs kill kids. and he isn't the only innocent person who was framed. But there's no hope of escape. Nobody can escape furnace. Or at least, that's what they all say. But that's only because nobody ever has...
What I felt: Personally, the first time I looked at the cover, I found it just a little disturbing. I thought "eh, I doubt very seriously I'll like that book. But hey--they want to send me a free book? I'll take a free book." So no, I didn't really like the cover. They could have done much better, either artistically or graphically or even with the colors. But that's just me as an artist and a girl :D so I did judge it. boy was that a mistake.
The first sentence of this book seemed to grab me by the neck: "If I stopped running, I was dead." From there, the entire book held me and wouldn't let me go, from that first sentence to the very end. In fact, it held me after the end, too. I distinctly remember my blood racing, heart beating, sweating, adrenalin searing through my veins while I read this book! It was breathtaking and riveting to the last word. And even after the last word. I sat there, staring at the blank page, gasping and panting like a dog from lack of oxygen from reading a book. (that doesn't happen very often, people.)
Characters: The characters in this book were very relatable. They weren't super people, they were real. They handled the horrific experiences of Furnace the same way I would have--screaming in their sleep, crying, throwing up from the horrors.
Writing: the writing was very good--not one of those books where the author just says what he wants to say. Alexander Gordon Smith followed my creative writing teachers' first rule: Show, don't tell. It was an amazing thing to read, the language was very full in vocabulary, and it had good prose. There wasn't any really bad foul language either, like some of the other teen books I've been reading lately.
Recommendation: this book is a thriller, not a horror book, even though it's mildly graphic (mildly. Not really that bad. Descriptive enough to be kinda gross at times... but hey, it could be just because I'm a girl.). It's not the most horrific book I've ever read, but it's certainly not for an eight-year-old. Personally I'd recommend it for anyone fourteen and up (but that's just me).
I hope everyone gets a chance to read this book! It ranked my highest list: up with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Not only was the writing very good, but the plot was thick and complicated, intricately laid out, and mind boggling, and the characters were real people.