Grade Level: 
8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Character Development
Civil Society
Fiction Literature
Philanthropic Literature
Book Title: Lockdown Author: Alexander Gordon Smith This literature guide was written by teens for teens to accompany the reading of this "resilience literature." The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions to guide reading comprehension and promote dialogue about issues of resilience, trust, independence, family, and community. This guide was written as an assignment in Mrs. Gresham's 11th grade literature class, and includes suggestions for community engagement.

Reading Level: Ages 12-17

This literature guide was created as part of an 11th grade project at Castle Park High School in Indiana. The students chose the book to read, produced a video book talk (link below) and wrote the following questions and project ideas to stimulate thought and action about real issues.

Book Talk for Lockdown



  • What are some of the feelings that are invoked from the image on the book cover?

  • What can be inferred from the title of the book?

  • What can be interpreted from the way the figure on the book cover looks?


  • Some prisons are notorious for terrible conditions and guard brutality.

  • Genetic experimentation has flourished under the current scientific atmosphere.

During Reading


  1. What is Alex's best friend’s name?

  1. Who is Alex's best friend in Furnace?

  1. What was the warden’s name, and do you think it is his real name?

  1. Why do you think Alex was in Furnace?

  1. Where is Furnace located?

  1. What are two gangs present in Furnace?

  1. How would you cope with life in Furnace?

  1. How would you react to the loss of a friend?

  1. Why do you think Montgomery acted so hostile when Alex saved him?

  1. Why do you think Alex tried to escape even when escape seemed impossible?

  1. Why do you think the Wheezers pick out the test subjects?

  1. How would you execute an escape plan if you were imprisoned in Furnace?

  1. Do you think bringing Gary along for escape is a good or bad idea? explain

  1. Donovan is a great help but do you think he will betray his friends if things turned for worse? Why?

  1. What do you think happens after they jump into the river?


  1. In the book prisoners were taken away and experimented on, the ones that came back were not the same at all because they were deformed immensely an made into murderous monsters. Nazi human experimentations were a series of medical experiment on a large number of prisoners, mainly Jews from across Europe, but also in some cases Romani, ethnic Poles, and Soviet POWs and disabled non-Jewish Germans by Nazi Germany in its Concentration camps mainly in the early 1940's, during WWII and the Holocaust.
  2. In the book the prisoners eat what the world doesn’t want such as spoiled vegetables, cheese, bread, and meats. One of the "great wave" in municipal and home recycling is the concentration on what to do with the enormous amount of food waste generated in and out of the home, by businesses, or as a result of surplus farming. On the grand scale, it is estimated that about one-half of all food that is produced or consumed in the U.S. is discarded. The main culprits are spoilage and overproduction/surplus.
  3. In the book prisoners are forced to perform tasks such as beating their way through rocks with tools. The once- common sight of felons in chains breaking rocks under a searing sun is about the resurrection of chain gangs in May.
  4. In the book guard brutality is all too common and is widely employed in many different manners to keep prisoners in fear.
  5. In a remarkable hearing that explored torture practices at Angola, 25 inmates testified last summer to facing overwhelming violence in the aftermath of an escape attempt at the prisons nearly a decade ago. These 25 inmates- who were not involved in the escape attempt, but were in the same building-testified to being kicked, punched, beaten with batons and with fists, stepped on, left naked in a freezing cell and threatened that they would be killed.
  6. The 1998 Slaying of Ryan Harris made national headlines when the 8-year-old boy and a 7-year-old friend became the youngest murder suspects in the United States.
  7. _In the book Alex finds a subterranean river that can be heard coming from a crack in the cave that is room two. a Subterranean River is a river that runs wholly or partly beneath the ground surface- one where the river bed does not represent the surface of the Earth.

Post Reading

  1. Questions:
  2. What do you think will happen in book two?
  3. What would you do differently from what Alex did?
  4. When do you think this book was set?
  5. How many different instances of camaraderie can you recall that were seen throughout the book?


  1. Lockdown: Escape from Furnace has four other books that follow it in the series.
  2. Stephen King writes horror stories and has similar themes in some of his many works.
  3. Alexander Gordon Smith has a new book out, Fury.


  1. Write short horror stories and have a contest to decide which one is the most thrilling.
  2. Visit a prison and view what everyday prison life is like.
  3. Have a book drive to give to the inmates in your local juvenile detention center.
  4. Organize a charity prison stay event. Raise money to support a cause while someone stays in prison for a short time to give an interesting reason to donate.