Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

A List of Cages by Robin Roe
January 10, 2017
320 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Contains: Child abuse, violence

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.

This book grabbed my attention because of its description of Adam and Julian, and what I expected to be a story of friendship. What I got was so much more. Without giving away spoilers beyond what the synopsis reveals, we know that Adam and Julian were once foster brothers, and now they have been reunited in the present. What we learn is a combination of the past that brought them together and also tore them apart, and the present in which we discover the depths of Julian's troubles and torment, and Adam as the catalyst to his help.

What we also discover is an incredible journey of friendship, brotherly love, and hope. It's not an easy read. There are some pretty horrible things happening here, and this book does not shy away from criminal abuse. But it also displays a beautiful relationship between Julian and Adam. A unique friendship. A bond that is layered and life-changing for both boys. And I loved that the author used these two boys' stories, threaded them in a way that challenged them, enriched them, and ultimately saved them.

Why not 5 stars? There was a small romance that was in this story that to me added nothing. If anything, it detracted from the story and stalled the plot. I also wished some of the side characters were explored a bit more. Charlie was a great addition to the story, but a deeper exploration of him would have added so much more. And the villain was very one-dimensional.

Overall, this was a harrowing, heartbreaking, yet hopeful story of surviving abuse and finding friendship and family. If you can handle the sensitive subject matter, Julian and Adam's story is worth the journey.

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