Alex is an ultra-violent youth, running with an ultra-violent gang, living in an ultra-violent time. He spends his evenings hurting people in extreme manners, not caring whether they lived or died, and mostly manages to avoid detection by the authorities. His parents are weak, the government is weak, and this gives Alex and other youths just like him the ability to do whatever their sociopathic minds feel like doing.
When I first started the book, I hated it. After I got past the first 40 or so pages of pure violence, I actually had a hard time putting it down. I found Alex, the narrative style of the novel, and the language fascinating. Normally I can't read a book when I don't like the characters, and Alex was infinitely unlikable, however, I think he showed remarkable growth by the end of the book, and that made him readable. In fact, despite the over the top nature of the novel and Alex, the growth made him very believable.
I still couldn't say I liked the book. But the message, the believability of the character, and the clever use of language made me give it 3.5 stars, rounded to 3. I think it would be difficult to question that it belongs on the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I've never read another novel quite like A Clockwork Orange.