“I used to think that if I concentrated, I could make myself disappear. I don’t believe that anymore, but sometimes I still have to try.”
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.
A List of Cages is an astounding debut novel that leaves me deeply affected and emotionally invested. It is brave, gripping, if at times uncomfortable read that sometimes makes me wish there’s something I can do for the characters.
Adam and Julian are foster brothers for a time, until Julian is forced to live with his only living relative. Their lives crossed again when Adam is assigned to help the school psychologist as his elective. Part of his task is to track down Julian, making sure Julian won’t skip more of his appointments. As Adam try to do his job, he noticed the difference between the Julian who used to live with them and the present Julian. Concerned with his former foster brother, he tries his best to be part of Julian’s life once again. As Adam unravel the new Julian, Adam not only understand Julian but also see the reality of the situation he was in.
Robin Roe did a wonderful job of writing Julian and Adam’s story. I almost can’t believe that ‘A List of Cages’ is her debut novel given how good and affecting her writing is. The alternating narration between Adam and Julian easily shows the contrast between Adam and Julian’s lives. Not just their personal living condition, but as well as the way they handle their mental health conditions.
Julian’s storyline will undoubtedly linger to readers. My hearts bleeds for him, and constantly lost my breath while reading his parts. He affected me deeply that even I feel uncomfortable reading some of the things that happened to him I still can’t stop reading, if only to prove to Julian that he has someone who won’t leave him.
Julian doesn’t deserve those horrifying things. Sometimes I wonder who’s to blame — his uncle or the foster system that put Julian to his uncle’s care? But as much as I want to point finger, I also know that there’s no use in condemning any of those people. This is fiction after all. I can only hope that no one suffers like Julian in real life. No one deserves that kind of treatment or that kind of life.
“I used to think struggle was what aged you, but if that were the case, Julian should’ve been a hundred years old. Now I wonder if the opposite is true. Maybe instead of accelerating your age, pain won’t let you grow.”
As for Adam, well he is genuinely caring guy. He reminds me that kindness and love goes a long way. Sometimes it’s easy to forget little things like that. I’ve seen many times how hardships change people. How bad experiences can make someone tough by stripping him of kindness and love. It is sad but it is also a reality.
“Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”
On the whole, A List of Cages touches some difficult issues with sensitivity and reality that will surely make readers think of things and feel every kind of emotions that the characters went through. It’s unflinching, honest, and uncompromising story that shows the power of kindness, friendship and brotherhood.
This new addition to the ya contemporary novels is not to be missed.