A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Published by Disney-Hyperion on January 10th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Abuse shown)
When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he's got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn't easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can't complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian--the foster brother he hasn't seen in five years.
Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He's still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what's really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.
Another incredibly powerful contemporary, this book tells the story of a boy who has been suffering abuse in silence, convinced that he deserves the pain he’s subjected to. This is the type of compelling story that breaks your heart and won’t let you go!
What Fed My Addiction:
- Julian’s voice. In many ways, Julian seemed very young—much younger than his fourteen years. But he had been so sheltered and kept away from outside influences that it made sense. In many ways, Julian’s uncle had brainwashed him into backward thinking patterns that held him back. Julian had a hard time discerning between what was “normal” and what wasn’t, especially where his uncle’s treatment of him was concerned. Unfortunately, I think this portrayal was probably very realistic. A child who’s told that there’s something wrong with him and that he deserves to be treated badly may very well believe it. Self-blame in cases of abuse is sadly common. My heart broke for Julian just as Adam’s did.
- Learning disorders highlighted. In addition to tackling the issue of abuse in this story, Roe also addresses learning issues: Adam has ADHD and has a hard time keeping still and focusing, and Julian suffers from dyslexia, believing himself to be unintelligent because he can’t read well. Neither of these issues took center stage in the book, but they were both there as peripheral elements. I actually sort of liked the fact that we got to see characters with these learning issues but that the book wasn’t specifically about them. Many kids today have learning disorders that prevent them from meeting their full potential (I know this firsthand), and it’s nice to see it de-stigmatized in a book.
- Adam. I felt for Adam, who strove to do the “right thing” and succeeded in some ways but failed in others. This is so true to life. Every day, we make choices—big and small—that can set us or others on a trajectory that’s either positive or negative. Adam took Julian under his wing and wanted to shield him from pain, but all the attention in the world couldn’t protect Julian from what he was facing at home. I loved that Adam never gave up. He never decided it was just too hard to keep helping or to keep caring. I would hope that there’s an Adam in every Julian’s life.
- Friendships highlighted. Not only did Adam and Julian’s friendship flourish in this book, but Adam’s whole group of friends sort of took Julian under their wing. I loved that this developed in a relatively realistic way. Everyone didn’t just completely accept Julian immediately just because Adam did, but they all did eventually come around, and they turned into this fantastic support system when things went downhill (fast). There was a tiny bit of a romance in this book, but friendships were stressed over romance throughout.
- Shocking developments. I knew that this book was going to feature abuse, but nothing could have prepared me for the horrific turn that the book took and the way that Julian was treated—and the purely shocking nature of that abuse. (If you’re very sensitive to the idea of child abuse, you might not be able to handle this book!) It’s the type of book that tears you apart inside and makes you realize just how terrible this world can be. It says right in the synopsis that Roe pulled from real-life experiences (perhaps from her counseling days?) for this story. I don’t know how many of the specific circumstances in this book were real, but I do know that abuse happens in so many forms. We need to pay attention—no one should fall through the cracks.
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- Few loose threads. There were a couple of tiny plot points that didn’t seem to go anywhere or that left me with questions. For instance, there was some implication that Julian’s mother didn’t get along with her family, but we never found out anything about that. And we discovered something else surprising about the uncle in the end—a contradiction to what Julian thought was happening with him—but we never discovered the full truth about that either. View Spoiler »(I’m referring to the fact that Julian thought his uncle went to work every day and worked very long hours, but it turned out he’d lost his job over a year ago. What had he been doing during that time? Where did he go? I thought maybe something sinister was happening, but it never went anywhere.) « Hide Spoiler But these points were minor.
This book wrecked me in all the best ways. Be ready for an emotional story that will rock you to your core. I give this book 5/5 stars!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via #BEA16 in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Robin Roe has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s from Harvard. She counseled adolescents in Boston before she moved to Dallas to run a mentoring program for at-risk teens. She later became a high school special education teacher.
Her debut novel A List of Cages comes out January 10, 2017.Author Links: