"You crazy, you know that? You belong in here, no doubt about that."
Donovan, LockdownCarl Donovan is first introduced as Alex's cellmate in the beginning of Lockdown. He was incarcerated at the age of eleven after the Summer of Slaughter and has been living for five years in the prison.
Donovan is a sixteen-year-old Black teenage boy. He's described as being tall, muscular, and dark skinned. He's characterized notably for have a wide bright smile that shines through the darkness, according to Alex.
Donovan displays an air of indifference and toughness to avoid being targeted by the various gangs in Furnace. He knows how to fight, and once was put in solitary after a fight with some gang members. He is one of the few people who has unrestricted access to the Furnace gym. While inmates make room for him and respect his reputation, Donovan does not try to go out to cause trouble and seems now that he avoids picking fights.
Around Alex and Zee, he is much kinder, more like a weary older brother or guardian angel figure who shows Alex and Zee around Furnace and teaches them the rules of the prison. He claims that in Furnace you cannot afford to make friends and bring your heart down with you, but comes around to his new friendships more loyal than ever. During his five years in Furnace, Donovan has witnessed the many changes, and worse so, punishments that Furnace provides. Interestingly, Donovan had also been one to impulse act and pull off his own, smaller acts of rebellion at great cost to himself and others. It seems because of this, Donovan often puts more pressure into scolding Alex for breaking the rules and initially rejects the idea of escape.
Donovan also appears to be a little vain as well, calling himself handsome and beautiful at times while also remarking that he goes to the prison gym often to keep his body in shape.
In Solitary, Alex began to have hallucinations of the people in his life while in the hole. Donovan was one of them, more forgiving than every other apparition. There is a couple of notable differences between this Donovan and the real one. The first being as a hallucination, his visage blinks and flickers in and out of existence a lot, and after Alex sees Donovan as a blacksuit, Donovan becomes progressively less recognizable and tangible. The other difference being ghost Donovan appears to be more blunt and pettily insulting towards Alex. This could be a projection of Alex's own self-hatred on this part.
Main Story Edit
Back Story Edit
Five years prior to Alex's arrival, Carl Donovan was incarcerated as an eleven-year-old for the murder of his mother's abusive boyfriend, Ryan. According to Donovan, Ryan was beating his mother every night and it had gotten to the point where Donovan snapped and killed him with a candlestick. Due to the fact the incident happened right after the events of the Summer of Slaughter, Donovan was given a life sentence. He was initially held in an adult facility for a couple of months before transferring to the opening of Furnace. As confirmed in Silent Night, his mother had killed herself two months after Donovan had been officially sentenced to life in prison.
From then on in his time underground, few stories are recounted. He recalls the years where the shower room wasn't built and all the inmates had to clean with buckets and sponges in their cells. After a brutal fight with a member of the Leopards, a boy name Figi, Donovan had been sent to solitary for three days.
To see this text, click the "Expand" link on the right
Carl Donovan is first introduced when Warden Cross announces that Donovan will be Alex's cellmate, the former giving a hardened demeanor. After the announcement, Donovan guides Alex up to the sixth floor to where their cell would be. As Alex begins to take in what would be of his future, he immediately imagines jumping out of the sixth floor to commit suicide. To Alex's surprise, Donovan seems to know what he was thinking by saying that the sixth floor isn't high enough and to go up to the seventh or eighth floor. With that, Donovan properly introduces himself with a smile, saying he prefers the name Donovan over Carl.
He warns Alex to be cautious around the inmates in the yard, noting that just about everyone in the prison is a murderer. Alex asks how long Donovan has been in Furnace, to which he answers that he's been locked up for five years, a first generation inmate. In answer to Alex's follow up question asking if he was framed, Donovan says he was not. He was in because he killed his mother's abusive boyfriend when he was eleven and couldn't take it anymore. Since the events of the Summer of Slaughter, Donovan was convicted anyway as all cases of juvenile murder were used as warnings to the general public. He also implies that ironically, after he had gotten a life sentence, his mother killed herself.
The two make their way down to the trough room, Donovan once again back to an air of hard indifference citing that in Furnace you have to act tough to avoid the gangs. In the trough room, Donovan and Alex settle at a table before Donovan offers to grab food for the both of them. When he returns, Alex introduces Donovan to Zee whose joined them. Zee and Alex then shoot questions about any kind of escape at Donovan, who answers that the prison's layout only goes further down into the infirmary, the storage tunnels, warden's offices and for the hole (solitary confinement). He'd been down in solitary for three days for a fight he had with a former gang called the Leopards, how there's no food or light and that the only water was the condensation from the walls. He then reiterates that there's no point in trying to escape the prison, and to be careful about making friends as you'll lose them just as quickly.
At this point, a fight breaks out in the canteen and the lockdown siren sounds forcing everyone out of the canteen. Alex is knocked down by the rush of the crowd trying to get back into their cells, but is saved by Donovan who pulls him up and drags him back up to their cell. The two share a laugh before settling in for the rest of the evening in their cell. Donovan abruptly warns Alex to never get up at night if the siren sounds and the blood red lights are on, before wishing him goodnight.
The following day Donovan tries to comfort Alex, who'd woken him up after vomiting from a night terror, assuring him that the nightmares eventually do go away. The two finish getting ready for the morning, Donovan and Alex head back down to the yard to find out they were chippers for the morning. After breakfast, the two head down to the chipping halls where inmates spend the morning carving out the hall with pickaxes. The morning goes through with ease, though Donovan musings about cave ins doesn't settle Alex's anxiety. Once hard labour has ended, Alex and Donovan proceed to the shower room where Donovan explains how the inmates had actually carved the room out in three years. His theory about the chipping hall is that it's less about making space and more about tiring the kids out so they'd be easier to control.
Later, Alex and Donovan meet Zee in the trough room for lunch. Alex notices the Skulls beating up on someone out of sight and asks Zee and Donovan if they knew who it was. Zee doesn't know, but Donovan tries to lie and assure it wasn't anyone Alex knew. Due to Donovan's hesitance, Alex figures that the victim was Monty and Donovan reluctantly confirms. Alex is angered by the fact asking why nobody would come to Monty's aid. He ends up picking an argument with Donovan who counters that there always has to be a scapegoat, and that Alex doesn't have any business trying to fix the system just on his first full day. Donovan threatens to ditch Alex if he tries anything stupid, but Alex goes on and picks a fight with the Skulls anyway.
A lockdown breaks out once more due to the skirmish, but Donovan refuses to help Alex out. While Alex and Zee finish the fight and try to evade the hell hounds, Donovan keeps the door to his cell propped open with their toilet seat. Once Alex and Zee trick the dogs having jumped from the seventh floor to the sixth, Donovan helps the two back into the cell, pulling the toilet seat out seconds before a dog barrels inside. Shortly afterwards, Donovan starts yelling about how stupid Alex was for picking fights he couldn't win, but gives up and climbs into his bunk. Alex apologizes to him and Zee, grateful for what they've both done to help him. When Zee is escorted back to his own cell, and Alex prays for being alive, Donovan only claims that they're all both dead and just don't know it yet.
The morning afterwards, when the warden makes the trough room out of bounds due to the fights of the other day, Donovan says not to worry as it's not the first time the canteen's been shut down, and it likely wouldn't be the last. He also points out that Alex will be fine for the time being as the warden's other threat that any other fighting will result a week in solitary. Once their morning as chippers passed, Alex, Zee and Donovan wait by Room Two for the showers and simultaneously share a feeling of euphoria in the area, that Alex can only conclude was fresh air coming from the closed tunnel. Later, the three make their way up to Alex and Donovan's cell only to be stopped by Kevin and two other Skulls. Donovan straightens himself out to intimidate them, but the Skulls claim their only hear for Alex's business. They leave with a threat to Alex, who in turn realizes that the Skulls came by to piss on his bed. Disgusted, the three leave the cell behind and sit down somewhere else. Zee asks if the warden will lift his warning. Donovan says that it will be lifted in time, otherwise there'd be a riot, but there will be no formal announcement as the next time a skirmish breaks out it will just be a lockdown. The conversation turns into a discussion about who the warden is, and what his deal was running the prison.
Four days after Alex's fight, Alex, Donovan and Zee are in the kitchen cooking slop for hard labour. They reminisce about their lives before prison, Donovan remarking that the one thing he wished he could've learned was how to cook a proper meal. Monty, who had been posted with them overheard the conversation, admitting that cooking was the only thing he could do well. As an action of kindness, Monty prepared a homemade meal for the three boys. Donovan had been so overwhelmed by eating real food for the first time in five years, he started sobbing and telling Monty how much he loved him.
Unfortunately, it is that night when the blood watch strikes. When the night siren first sounds, Donovan prays to God not to be taken that night. When Donovan hears Alex moving on the bunk bellow, he hisses at Alex to stay put and not bring attention to the cell. Alex keeps trying to press Donovan for answers, only to be shot down by Donovan whispering for Alex to shut up. As the blood watch proceeds, Alex climbs out of bed the amount noise he made infuriating Donovan, who repeats for Alex to shut up and get back to bed, eventually giving up when Alex doesn't. When a wheezer approaches the cell for a minute before leaving, Donovan asks Alex if there's any mark on the cell. Relieved when Alex confirms that they weren't marked, Donovan repeats one last time for Alex to get back to bed.
In the morning, Donovan refuses to speak to Alex, furious from last night's events. During hard labour, despite being posted together Donovan posted himself to be as far away from Alex as possible, and returning to his cell by himself after work. A while after, Alex returns to the cell with Zee and apologizes for what he had done in the night, then not really realizing how serious the blood watch was. Donovan accepts the apology, but is still wary. Zee brings up the conversation he had with Alex beforehand about escape to Donovan, personally disbelieving in it. Alex asks Donovan about Room Two and tries to get him into considering a way out, but is met with rejection. Before he can interject more, the conversation is interrupted by a commotion in the yard from the new kid, Gary taking on Kevin and the Skulls. At this development, Donovan is incredibly pleased, almost respectful of Gary for taking down Kevin.
The enthusiasm is immediately turned upside down once Gary takes over as his new position as Skull leader. After the incident with Gary, Alex goes at it again trying to persuade Donovan into the idea of escaping. Donovan continues to reject him over and over, until he snaps and asks why Alex is so desperate to die. He then goes on to tell a story about Scott White, an inmate who was the only person to ever make an escape attempt two years before. According to Donovan, Scott snuck into the air vents during a lockdown and navigated his way to the elevator hitched a ride up. Scott was then caught by the blacksuits after having gone delirious from a lack of food and water, and was taken down to the yard once more and fed to three of the warden's dogs. Processing this story, Alex asks if the air vents are still available. In frustration Donovan gives up, simply saying they were replaced by pipes and that everyone else was suffering thanks to "the last idiot to think of freedom."
The next day, Alex and Donovan were posted for the chipping halls again. Donovan keeps glancing at Alex, concerned, and tells him not to do anything stupid. It's clear that Alex will, so Donovan disengages and leaves Alex to it without helping him. Later, when Alex returns from Room Two covered in blood, Donovan drops everything and helps carry Alex over, asking what had happened. Alex ends up puking on Donovan first. Alex apologizes and is about to explain what went down, before being stopped by Donovan who points out the guard watching them by the hall entrance. Later in the trough room, Alex talks about what happened in Room Two to Donovan and Zee. Zee is beginning to be more convinced of escaping by Alex's story, but Donovan remains uninterested. The discussion gets cut off by Gary coming over to their table, threatening Alex and then leaving once more. However, Alex is struck with the idea that what he heard in Room Two is an underground river. Alex, Donovan and Zee all argue over the theory for the rest of lunch. Donovan makes a point that they wouldn't have built an underground prison and not notice a river. Alex is adamant that it's the most logical explanation for the noise, and that a river must appear up top somewhere. Zee and Donovan disagree with him and change the conversation.
During downtime, Alex and Zee go up to Alex's cell while Donovan went down to the gym. He ended up back up into the cell, fuming about how he wasn't allowed in again because Gary made the gym out of bounds for anyone who isn't fighting. To pass the time instead, Alex and Zee began to recite their favourite movies and TV shows, eventually waking Donovan out of his bad mood.
That night however, the blood watch came again. Alex called out to Donovan again, scared that the wheezers would be coming back again. Donovan tells him that the particular siren meant someone was coming back. At this, Alex sat up trying to get a view of the yard, earning a slap around the head from Donovan who warned that it didn't mean they were in the clear. As the blood watch resumed, the thing that was being brought back is revealed to be a grotesque, mutated version of Monty who was returned to kill Kevin.
The morning afterwards, Donovan wakes up Alex and calms him down from a panic attack. When asked about why Monty was brought back, Donovan confesses that this wasn't the first time somebody was brought back and that he didn't know what happened. The first couple of times somebody had been returned, Donovan wasn't able to tell what the creatures were until one night in which he recognized one of the creatures as inmate due to the tattoos on its skin. Alex presses for more answers that Donovan cannot give before Donovan freaks out, horrified about what he saw done to Kevin. Alex takes this chance to convince Donovan once more about escape. Donovan gives in and admits it would be better to die in the escape than become one of the warden's creatures.
Now accepting the possibility of escape, Donovan begins to help out with Alex's plan. He distracts the guard in Room Three, breaking one the ceiling props and faking a cave-in while Alex and Zee sneak into Room Two. When Alex and Zee return, bearing the bad news that the river is too small to get into, Donovan is adamant that there has to be a way out. Alex snaps at Donovan and accuses him of not finding his own escape in the five years he'd been inside. From that point during Alex's depression, Alex and Donovan rarely speak to each other. Donovan and Zee continue to speculate the different ways to get into the river by themselves. A couple weeks later, Donovan tries to initiate conversation with Alex again, hurt and angered by the fact Alex had completely given up. He then slaps Alex with a meat filled rubber glove, which unintentionally triggers a plan in Alex's head of using gas filled rubber gloves to blow up the rift.
After making up, Alex and Donovan each smuggle a few gas filled gloves from the kitchen and hide them underneath Alex's mattress and then run off to tell Zee about their new plan. The three make a pact between the three of them to escape, sworn to secrecy. Only minutes later however is when Alex tries to persuade Tobyand Ashley not to kill themselves jumping off the eighth floor. When Alex mentions their escape plans, Donovan tries to stop him in fear of giving too much away. Ashley is determined to die, but Toby agrees to get in on the plan. Ashley jumps but tries to take Toby down with him as Alex desperately holds onto Toby. Donovan and Zee reluctantly help pull Toby over the railing but not before Alex punches Ashley off of him, killing the boy.
Donovan doesn't trust Toby at first, insisting that they keep him out of the plan until the day of escape comes. Toby equally insists to be a part of the plan, and comes up with the idea of hiding the gloves just behind the tunnel of Room Two. Toby eventually wins Donovan over by smuggling eight whole gloves into Room Two without being caught. As the plan takes motion, Alex, Zee, Donovan and Toby become more and more confident and have to warn each other not to look to suspicious in their giddiness. Ten days into their plan, Donovan and Alex sneak into Room Two to start bringing over the gloves to the rift of the river. They strip out of their jumpsuits and use them to carry over the gloves over before stacking them into the crack. Once finished, the two head back to Room Three in high spirits only for Gary to show himself and mark Alex for a fight in the gym.
Donovan does his best to teach Alex about self-defence as they finish their shift in hard labour. He and Alex tell Zee and Toby about this new development afterwards and Alex says that their plan continues on regardless whether or not Alex makes the fight. When the Skulls come pick Alex up, Donovan accompanies Alex to the gym. During the fight, Donovan attempts to enter the ring to help out but is threatened with a shank if he dares to break the rules. Instead, Donovan pleads with Gary and lets him in on the escape plan in exchange for saving Alex's life. Gary complies and breaks up the fight. Alex is dragged away from the gym and up back into his cell by Donovan, Zee and Toby. When Alex reveals that Donovan had dragged Gary into the plan, tension among the group rises as Donovan defends what he had to do to keep Alex alive. He ends up leaving the argument, spending the rest of the evening somewhere away from the rest of the group but returns and assures that Gary wouldn't be telling anybody about their deal.
Despite the worry of having Gary on board may be, the plan continues on just as it had been before. After another week of collecting gas filled gloves again, Donovan and Alex are back in Room Two prepping the explosives in the rift. Additionally, Donovan comes up with the plan to rig the extra gloves in the entrance tunnel, that way if they blow up the entrance first they would have more time to blow up the river. With the river and entrance ready, the plan is finally complete. Between the two of them, Donovan puts out the suggestion of leaving then and there. Alex is surprised to hear the thought, but truly believes that Donovan wouldn't just abandon Zee and Toby. At this, Donovan sheepishly agrees.
Alex and Donovan return to the cell with the good news for Zee and Toby that the plan would be in action the next day. Giddy with the idea of escape, the group begin to talk about what they'd do once they were free. Donovan in particular is very excited about just being able to eat a good burger once he gets out of Furnace, while the rest of the gang talks about exposing the prison for its true horrors.The lightheartedness is cut off when their talk is overheard by Jimmy, who had been passing by. Despite their denial, Jimmy is suspicious and mentions that the other inmates are spreading a rumour about the four of them knowing a way out. Donovan shoves Jimmy away telling him to leave. Jimmy does leave, but with the fear of what the rumour exactly detailed. After this, Alex goes down to tell Gary that the plan is happening tomorrow.
Alex and Donovan go to sleep nervous but still confident in their plan, Alex saying that even if it all goes wrong that they've managed to beat the system and find a way out. Donovan doesn't really understand, but agrees that they'd all be legends. In the middle of the night however, the bloodwatch returns. Even in their best efforts to be invisible, Donovan screams when a wheezer marks their cell. Donovan is paralysed with fear, but somehow Alex manages to snap him out of it trying to get a grip on the situation. Neither are sure who'd be taken, but agree that whoever it was, the other would return and rescue them. Donovan pulls Alex into a hug, and says his final goodbyes before being taken by the bloodwatch.
To see this text, click the "Expand" link on the right
At the end of Lockdown, Donovan is selected and taken by the blood watch. Alex vows that he'll go back and rescue Donovan. In Solitary, after Alex and Zee start working with Simon, they stop by the infirmary to see what's been happening to Donovan. In this stage of the story, Donovan has already had his eyes replaced with silver ones, and undergone surgery. At this point only his torso and legs have been affected, and his skin described as looking greyer and burning to the touch. He's completely doped on painkillers, fluttering in and out of reality, but notices when Alex starts to go and begs Alex not to leave him alone.
The second time Alex, Zee and Simon visit, Donovan has undergone surgery again, his other leg affected now. This time, Alex could not hardly recognize him as Donovan's face had been scarred and distended. As Alex tried to reach out, Donovan had completely lost himself - chanting the words "Donovan is dead", laughing like a blacksuit repeatedly until Alex left. After rescuing Zee, the trio make one final visit to Donovan. At this point, all of Donovan's surgeries seemed to be complete and all of his memories and personality were finally lost. Despite being restrained Donovan tried to attack the boys, which was the last straw for Alex. Recalling the last words Alex remembered from his hallucination ("You don't have to free me to save me"), Alex delivers the mercy kill, smothering Donovan with a pillow.
Hallucination / Apparition Edit
Donovan appears as this first in Solitary, offering the limited advice he could from Alex's mind. This happens a in the rest of the books a few more times, and at the end of Execution when Alex kills all the blacksuits and rats in The Stranger's blood, it's Donovan's vision and smile that guides all the lost souls to a comforting ending.
Donovan's cellmate whom Donovan first starts mentoring when they first meet. Alex initially gets on Donovan's bad sides after picking fights and breaking rules during his first bloodwatch. Despite this, the two eventually become closer as cellmates, and eventually as friends admitting that Alex was the one to make Donovan feel more like a sentimental fool. Zee even jokes they're like Siamese twins joined at the hip.
An inmate and mutual friend of Alex's that Donovan becomes friends with during the events of Lockdown. They gradually get closer as the story goes along, joking and teasing each other. During Alex's depression, they spent more time alone together to discuss escape plans. After Donovan's death, Zee still regards him fondly.
Adam is Donovan’s first and only cellmate prior to Alex’s arrival in Lockdown. Adam and Donovan are extremely close friends, often left alone with their reputation as being first generation inmates. Similarly, Adam had also been in the same juvie system as Donovan before the two were transferred to Furnace. Donovan looks up to Adam, and Adam is the first to impart his necessary wisdom of keeping your heart in Furnace.
Batek is a close friend of Donovan, often hanging out with him and Adam during meal breaks and in their cell during free time. Batek gladly goes along with their more rebellious plan in Silent Night, and has fun with Donovan poking fun at Adam. It’s unclear if Batek is also a first generation inmate.
- In the Prison Blog short story it's noted that Donovan goes the extra mile to look good. He makes his own toothbrushes by tying strips of cloth around his finger and get haircuts by an inmate named Oli.
- Donovan owns his own wooden shank but rarely uses it.
- In Alexander Gordon Smith's newest triology The Devil's Engine the protagonist Marlow has an old dog also named Donovan.
- Alexander Gordon Smith confirmed a fan headcanon that Donovan's middle name is Eugene.
- This is canonised in Silent Night.
- Donovan's love of burgers stems from his memories celebrating Christmas with his mother, in which she refused to cook turkey and decided to make Christmas burgers for their dinner.