A List of Cages
Author: Robin Roe
Publication: January 10th, 2017
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: e-ARC, 320 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health, Realistic Fiction
Read: January 2017
I received an e-ARC of this book from Disney Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
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.
Trigger warning for graphic depictions of mental, physical and emotional abuse.
Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
This book is absolutely and totally heart wrenching and heart breaking. Don’t go into this expecting a light contemporary because you’ll be shocked. This book is extremely powerful and poignant and might even make you cry if you’re affected by the themes discussed in it. It deals with abuse, family, friendship, trauma, grief and foster care. Both boys have different kinds of neurodiversity: dyslexia for Julian and ADHD for Adam. As I have neither, I can’t say if they are accurate representations but Adam reminded me a lot of my brother who does have ADHD. The only critique that I can really give is that I think the ending was rushed, there wasn’t enough resolutions and there were a few things left up in the air.
Writing Style – 4.5 out of 5 stars
I really enjoyed the writing style a lot. It was very distinct between the two main characters, their voices were very individual and unique to the other. It’s really fast paced and engaging. I managed to read the book much quicker than I thought, the second have I read it in one sitting which made it a very fast read. There’s a lot of graphic descriptions, it’s powerful and intense and totally kept me glued to the pages.
Characters – 5 out of 5 stars
The cast of characters in this book, specially the main characters, won me over and made me fall in love with them. They are so real and tangible and amazing. I find myself at a loss for words to describe how these characters made me feel. Julian broke my heart into a million pieces. He’s officially one of my cinnamon rolls because I just wanted to gather him into my arms and cuddle him. (Also, how weird is it that I know see 14 year olds as young enough to be cuddled, who am I?). He’s so quiet and lonely. He’s sad and depressed and lonely but doesn’t really know that he is. He feels that that is the way he’s supposed to be. His narrative is powerful in an emotional stand point and almost made me cry a few times. He’s scared but doesn’t really feel like he can talk to anyone because of the environment he’s in and school most definitely does not help because high school sucks and most people judge him. Adam on the other hand is the epitome of good. He’s such a kind and sweet, not only to Julian but to all the people around him. He actually reminded me a lot of myself and how I tend to be/act the way that someone needs me to, but Adam doesn’t have any negative connotations with that, that’s just how he is. He’s open and honest and gets really conflicted about Julian and his situation and what he should do. I really liked him and I liked his hyperactive yet empathetic personality and how close he was with his group of friends. My only problem where the characters are concerned is that I felt that some of the side characters weren’t developed enough. Adam has a very big group of friends but we only see a few closer up and only one I felt that we got to know as an individual. Also, Adam’s Mom, whom I felt should have had a bigger role in some of the later scenes, wasn’t around a lot of the time though it didn’t feel like she was the typical neglectful YA parent, that was a bit disappointing.
This book took my heart and shattered it completely! The only reason that I didn’t cry over it is because 1. I’ve been doing that a lot lately and I’ve run out of stock and 2. it took me totally by surprise and I’m still not over it.
The plot of this book is intense. We follow Adam, who is in his senior year of high school and acting as an aide for the school psychologist, is reunited with his old foster brother Julian, a freshman, who has been having the toughest time at life since they separated. I don’t really know how to begin to articulate my thoughts on this book and my feelings on this book, I’m sorry if this part doesn’t make any sense at all. This is basically a very emotional story and a friendship and abuse. Those two things don’t go together but they are the biggest themes within the book. First, I want to talk about the friendship. Adam and Julian’s friendship grows very slowly yet in such a beautiful way. Julian believes he’s very socially awkward and is always trying to say the right things, to say what people want to hear. I love how Adam was patient and kind and just open to talking or sharing or doing whatever it was that made Julian comfortable. It made it such a dynamic transition from old acquaintances to new friends. Julian started to open up and become more honest as time went on and I loved how that made him blossom. I also want to say that I liked Adam’s relationship with his bigger group of friends and how they slowly but surely started to accept Julian as a part of that group. Now to the hard part. There are some very graphic scenes of abuse that are extremely hard to read. They also escalated in a way that I did not see coming and that was hard to swallow. If I wasn’t so invested in the story, I might have stopped reading because it’s so intense and awful and just god, it hits really hard guys. I do recommend this book but please don’t go into it blind, it might be very triggering for you, even if it’s not a specific trigger. This stuff is hard to swallow. There are a lot of things going on in those final chapters. Every happens very quickly and I flew through it without meaning to. However, I felt that the ending itself was very rushed and left a lot of things unsaid. I wanted to know more because there’s still so much story that can be told. I wish we could’ve had a more detailed closure because I have a lot of questions about a lot of different things but I still feel that you end the book with a hopeful spirit within you and with a bright outlook on what the possible future for the characters may be.
Adam is a sweetheart. He’s the first narrator that we read from and I love his personality. He is so kind and open and honest. He feels and loves with his whole heart, body and soul. It never occurs to him to be mean or spiteful or rude to people. He knows how to set boundaries but doesn’t do it harshly. However, its this exact kind of personality that allows him to feel so full of guilt when he acts a certain way or does something that doesn’t have the result he’d like. He looks into himself and beats himself up and to be honest, that kind of reaction really resonated with me because I tend to do that as well. I don’t know what to say about Julian that I haven’t mentioned before because he’s such a fragile character. Reading from his perspective makes me feel like I need to wrap him in bubble wrap and keep him safe within my arms so no harm comes to him. He’s so lonely in the beginning and so hurt and quiet and just lost in grief but not able to really process that. I just… ugh guys he got to me so much.
I want to talk very briefly about the side characters. Adam’s friends are many, his group of friends is pretty big. I wish there could’ve been more development with all of them. Some felt like they were just there to take up space and make Julian’s anxiety around them a tangible thing. I never really got names confused but because they showed up so infrequently and each one had one specific thing that made them who they where that they were easy to tell apart. I wanted a lot more involvement, a lot more development from all of them. Emerald is one of the ones that gets a little bit more page time, but I don’t really know her very well. There are only a few specific details about her that are shown but no real personality. While Adam and Julian felt real, the side characters felt flat. With one exception which was Charlie. He’s the side character that had the most page time as Adam’s best friend. We got to know more about his family and his feelings. He also had a very sweet friendship with Julian that was an uphill battle to get to but made it so worth it to see in the end. I really loved him, with his temper issues and all.
Overall, I really loved this book, my first five star read of the year. The plot is intense and crazy and graphic so be cautious if you do decide to pick up this book. It’s emotionally draining and hard to read but I think it’s worth it to learn the story about this friendship. The main characters were beautifully written and genuinely developed and I really loved them as individuals as well as a unit. The side characters were a bit of a let down and while I didn’t speak on the villain above, his motivations were a bit unclear though inexcusable. That was one of the things I wanted to know about in the end that never really came. If you feel like you could handle the subject matter, I definitely recommend trying out this book.
So that’s it for this post! I hope my thoughts came across clearly because I’ve been working on this all day and didn’t really know where to start. When I did start, I didn’t know if I was doing a good job with my thoughts and I still don’t, so please comment and let me know if this is at least coherent haha. Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!