There's probably a good reason why I haven't stepped foot near a haunted house in over six years.*
Alex Sawyer has been condemned to life behind bars for a crime he didn't commit. Although he's not looking forward to time spent in a sparse juvy institution - no, after murderous teenagers killed innocent victims on the streets of England, Alex has been sent to the imposing prison Furnace. A prison constructed to hold any and all dangerous youth and the only sentence at Furnace is a life-sentence, basically a death-sentence. As Alex tries to navigate his way through the harsh reality of his new life - fear, hide, fear, work, fear - he begins to dream of the unthinkable: escape.
When asked about his inspiration for the horrific conditions of Furnace in an interview with The Discriminating Fangirl, Smith explained:
I was thinking less about the news and more about my own worst fears. The thought of being convicted of a crime you didn't commit, and spending your life in jail, is absolutely terrifying.And terrifying it is. From the heartless jailers to the complete lack of parental control or contact with the inmates on the inside, Furnace is a place directly out of anyone's nightmares (including this reviewer). That said, I was surprised to find Alex's story was full of heart. I know, cliche right? But I have to admit Alex's buff and gruff cell-mate Donovan and his fellow newbie Zee were bright spots in an otherwise red haze.
And for all of you who are scratching their heads with me over the cover? Please, please someone help that clip-art happy cover artist. Dogs! Barb-wire! Guns! Red strobe lights! I feel like I'm looking at some 10th grader's collage on nightmares and frankly it just gives me a headache. The UK cover is much better.
Let's just say after diving deep into the terrifying underbelly of Furnace, I think I'm going back to my original policy of no horror. Although it didn't exactly leave me with nightmares, I'll be the first to admit that I at least like the possibility of rainbows and a happy ever after. Which will never feature in a Furnace book. Never. Smith does a good job of dangling the possibility just out of reach, but it doesn't happen. That's not to say I'm not totally rooting for Alex to figure his way out of Furnace. I am. I'm just not crossing my fingers that it'll happen any time soon.