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Lockdown is the first book in a new YA horror/thriller series Escape from Furnace, written by Alexander Gordon Smith.

Alex isn't a good kid. It isn't just that he's a moody 14-year-old boy. No, he made a decision a while back that he liked money... and he didn't always get his hands on it legally. He knows it's wrong, but Alex keeps on down this wrong track, until something happens. Something horrific.

Furnace Penitentiary was created as a way to dissuade minors from committing violent crimes, after a wave of atrocious acts were perpetrated by young offenders. People became suspicious and frightened of kids... But Alex knows Furnace is no threat to him. He would never hurt anyone. He just likes money.

But when during the burglarization of an empty home, he is framed for a monstrous murder he did not commit - he finds himself running from the police. Before he knows what is going on, Alex is caught, tried, and found guilty - and sent to the underground Furnace... where no one ever comes back.

My synopsis is a little sparse because I'm trying to not give away some of the more shocking surprises that take place in the first few chapters. Hopefully, I kept it spoiler-free enough - yet allowed it to still sound interesting! Because, um, it most certainly is!

The opening chapter of Lockdown is instantly freaky, a tone that is set securely for the length of the entire novel. It gives you a whisper of the irrepressible intensity to follow.

After this prologue of sorts, time shifts to a first person narrative of how Alex will become an inmate of Furnace Penitentiary. The action slows (only for a short period) to let us get a real picture of who he is. Then a horrifying, startling turn of events kicks up the volume and you go flying into a fast-paced, breathless page-turner.

Thing is, for some reason, at first I was hesitant to connect with Alex and his story... I was skeptical of being sympathetic of him - but I believe this might have been purposeful on the part of the author. But once the questions and mysteries begin being presented, it doesn't even matter if you care about Alex yet - you just want to know what the heck is going on!

Once things started snowballing (and, man, do things start snowballing) and Alex ends up in Furnace, I became convinced. Smith's writing is very skilled in turning my opinion around and really throwing the reader into an entirely different world, which is presented as part of our world (almost makes it scarier). And before I really even knew my perception of Alex had changed, I found myself worried to death for him!

I don't know if I am explaining myself very well, but I am so reluctant to give any details away!

Here's the thing: Lockdown is one of those books that is very testosterone-driven and gory - but once you start reading you really can't put it down. Furnace Penitentiary isn't a regular prison - it's full of abnormal guards, dudes that have gas masks sewn on to their faces, and creatures that are supernatural and really, really creepy. I shudder just thinking of some of the scenes.

This is a book that I would kind of have to put out of my mind when I went to bed... because it is actually quite scary, crazy intense, and soooooooo nightmarishly suspenseful.

Lockdown had me in its grips up to the insane cliffhanger and definitely had me ready for the next book, Solitary, which is apparently not coming out until winter 2011. Ahhh! (If you are wondering, that was a cry of dismay.)

I don't always seek out these truly horrifying, don't-turn-out-the-lights novels, but Lockdown convinced me that every once in a while it is awesome to get freaked out... and lose some sleep. ;)


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