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Solitary is the second book in the six book YA series Escape From Furnace, by Alexander Gordon Smith.

So, ya'll remember my review of Lockdown, the first book in this series? Well, if you don't you can read it here. But to summarize a bit, it was freaky. Freaked me out. Lol. Makes me wonder if Alexander Gordon Smith gets nightmares from his own novel.

If you haven't read Lockdown you should definitely avoid this review, as it will contain inevitable spoilers from the end of Lockdown. So, scurry along now, all right? ;)

All of you who read Lockdown probably don't need much convincing or description of Solitary to check it out. Instead I'll just remind of how Lockdown ended - Fourteen-year-old Alex, framed for the murder of his best friend and thrown in Furnace Penitentiary, was desperate to successfully, improbably escape from the Furnace - something no one has ever done. With him, he had the following fellow prisoners: violent and unstable Gary (that blackmailed his way onto the team of escapees), Zee, and Toby. They broke through the walls and got access to the raging river they hoped would lead them to freedom.

Well, I'm just gonna let you think this through for yourselves... six books in the series, and Alex escapes in the first one? Um, yeah. Doesn't go so well. I won't give you any details, but the title screams at where Alex ends up. That's right. The dreaded, horrifying solitary confinement...

After the first book, I was a bit apprehensive of what Solitary was going to have in store for me - but I also really wanted to read it. And I'm sure I'm not alone.

Thing is, despite being extremely creepy, the beginning of the novel lacks the true suspense it could have had by giving away their apparent eventual capture with the title and jacket description. Like I said, most of us probably would have guessed they'd get caught, but it takes away the hope of their success, which was too bad.

But beyond that, the horrors of Furnace are still, well, horrifying. And the mental anguish of solitary is palpable and spine-tingling, though the transition back to this world didn't feel smooth to me, and at first less intense. Yet notice, I said at first. That's right. It came back pretty darn fast.

Jarringly freaky and admittedly nerve-wracking, Smith is skilled at creeping you out and putting the reader right there with Alex, whether you wanna be or not. Plus, the unexpected new form of possible hope is original, and both scared and enthralled me.

Solitary is engrossing, sickening, and effective. Need more adjectives? How about: shocking, revolting, dire, and flat-out crazy! And the cliffhanger ending leaves you feeling like you're actually hanging off a cliff - by a fingertip.

I don't want to give more away and ruin all the twisted twists. It's a horror book at its core, and a thriller in its execution. That sound like you're cupcake of choice? Check it out. Meanwhile, I'll be keeping an eye out for the next book coming out in April 2011 with the oh-so-ominous title Death Sentence.


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