A List of Cages
by Robin Roe
Published: January 10th, 2017
Rating: Heartbreakingly good
Are heart palpitations a real thing? Or are they just something that Victorian maidens claimed so that they could pretend to faint. Or many that is not really it… Heartache but so profound that I am feeling it physically. That is where I am at with this book.
Holy crap, that was a wild and painful ride. I read it in one intense sitting (and by sitting I mean I sat there for seven hours until I finished) and now have all the feels.
The book is told in alternated POVs between 14-year-old Julian, who lives with his uncle and 17-year-old Adam who is assigned to him at school.
Julian. Oh, my word. He was so sad and fragile. I really liked his POV. He has such a pure, innocent, and childlike way of looking at things. It made me feel super protective. I wanted to physically enter this book so I could rescue him. The abuse that he suffers is so horrific and is not easy to read about. If child abuse is difficult for you to read about then this is definitely a book to skip.
I rather enjoyed Adam. I found his lack of brooding and extroversion quite unusual and refreshing for a male character especially a teenager. I liked that he was kind to everyone and had a strong group of friends. And that he was happy. His ADHD seemed to be well presented. It was there and a part of his life but it wasn’t the central aspect of his existence. Sometimes, when characters have disabilities in novels the disability seems to become the sum total of their characterization. Not so here.
I did spend a good portion of the book enraged. Teacher enraged. Why was every teacher at this school clueless and/or heartless? There is a lot of casual cruelty towards all of the students and especially towards Julian. It is stated multiple times that he has dyslexia. What the hell are his teachers doing asking him to read aloud? Why is he getting no accommodations? Educationally there is so much wrong here. Also, there is a scene where a teacher callously asks a physically handicapped girl why she is holding up the class transferring from her wheelchair to her desk. The multitude of ways that adults suck in this book is not to be believed. It caused my soul to wither a bit.
This is a book about boy friendship. That isn’t toxic. Thank you! It is painful to see sometimes how undervalued male friendship is in literature. As if two boys can’t care for one another unconditionally. I was really pleased about this.
A List of Cages is the first five-star read of 2017 and definitively dragged me out of my reading slump. Highly recommended.
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.