Anything with a recommendation from James Patterson on the front should have made me nervous. That, together with a frightening picture on the front (person in gas mask with 4 syringes on his chest like a kind of ammunition) and the word “HELL” emblazoned on the back made me hide this book from my young children. This is another book that makes me wonder and worry about the direction some young adult fiction is taking. (Perhaps it’s just the titles I’m choosing?) I’m reading a lot of grim books lately. A salesman at The Bookcase confirmed my impression, though. She said that just by walking through the YA section at her store, you could see how dark the books had become. Granted, some of this is the vampire / zombie genre (and what does the popularity of that kind of book say about us? – thanks, Kris S., for that question), but Lockdown, like The Maze Runner, seems to be suggesting something about our children. Once again, children are separated from society. This time, it’s because they’ve committed a crime or have been, as in the case of our protagonist, framed for a crime. Because of what gets called ‘The Summer of Slaughter,’ a frightening (and I genuinely grimaced at some of the descriptions) underground prison has been created called the Furnace (strangely named after someone with the last name of furnace). So this becomes a vicious prison survival story – with gangs, nightmarish nighttime violence, and extremely terrifying adults. As with all prison stories, the question of escape comes up and unlikely friendships and alliances are made. Smith sets up his sequel nicely, but I don’t plan to read it. And I don’t think I’d hand it to a middle level reader either. Perhaps I’m too skittish. I would be curious what a middle level reader would have to say – probably a male because there are no female characters here after the opening pages. More importantly, though, if literature provides a mirror of our society, what does our current YA fiction say about our children?

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