Title: A List of Cages
Author: Robin Roe
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Published: By Disney Hyperion on January 10th, 2017
Grade: Exceeds expectations
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 kindhearted. 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…
I don’t read a lot of contemporaries in general, but this seemed like the kind I would enjoy because it tackled some heavy topics and would be hard-hitting. Not only that, I like to come away richer for having read a book and this one seemed like the perfect candidate for that as I’d never before read a book that focused on child abuse. I’d also heard rave reviews by Booktubers I follow closely, particularly Jesse, Emma and Hailey, so I did have high hopes for this one.
Julian, one of the main characters, doesn’t quite fit in with his peers and has a very strict uncle. He slowly falls into the path of Adam, who was his former foster brother before his uncle showed up. Julian misses his parents constantly and is trying so hard to have a normal high school life even though he is fettered with restrictions. I can’t tell you how much I felt like snatching Julian away from everything that happens to him in this book from a little less than halfway through. The story is so difficult to read because it forces you to confront the brutality of human nature. Robin Roe does not shy away from showing the very worst of reality and does not sugar coat anything. The rawness will definitely leave you crying and scarred for days. All this darkness was perfectly balanced by the character of Adam, who is a ray of sunshine and hope. He goes out of his way several times to help Julian and I love Adam for everything he means to the younger boy. I also liked the character of Adam’s mom, who was the pinnacle of a strong, independent woman who also made a great parent. The only reason it didn’t get a perfect rating was because of the final few scenes which felt a little contrived and I felt that some of them were unnecessary. I feel so much more educated after having picked up this book and I can’t imagine that actual children in this world go through that kind of trauma. This book broke my heart into a million pieces and still haunts me.
This is an extremely important book that will break you, but you need to read it all the same. I can safely say young adult literature has greatly benefited with the addition of a book like this. I would recommend reading it in silence to truly absorb the story in its fullest potency. Also, keep your comfort food at the ready because you will need it in large quantities to recover from this read.
This book did receive a bit of hype around its release date, so if you’re one of those who has picked it up already, what did you think of it? Do you tend to agree with my opinion or did you feel differently? Do you know any good contemporary books which explores a heavy topic (besides The Hate U Give, of course)? Let me know in the comments section below.