Title: A List of Cages
Author: Robin Roe
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 310
TW: Child Abuse/Torture, Bullying, Pedophilia, Death of Parents
A List of Cages is a heartbreaking young adult novel about the friendship between two very different boys. Adam Blake is a rarity in fiction- a well-liked and popular teenager who’s also a genuinely nice guy. His mom used to foster a younger boy named Julian, and Adam is surprised to meet Julian again in high school.
Julian has severe dyslexia and is bullied for being ‘stupid,’ and his uncle and guardian Russell is one of the vilest and most loathsome characters I’ve ever encountered in fiction. Adam starts to realize something is very wrong in Julian’s life, but Julian tries to hide the abuse he’s suffering at home.
The book is narrated by both Julian and Adam, and I honestly fell in love with both of their characters. They were both so endearing and I thoroughly enjoyed their relationship and the love (platonic) they have for each other. This is definitely a YA novel for older teens only, the level of abuse portrayed is intense and hard to read about at times. The short chapters and brisk pace make it a quick and easy read but I worried so hard for Adam and Julian. I seriously couldn’t put it down.
There, however, were a few flaws that detracted from the experience. Julian and Adam’s narrative voices sounded a little too similar to me and I sometimes got confused about who was talking. The cop characters who show up when Julian’s in the hospital are way too antagonistic and their behavior was wildly inappropriate and seemed implausible, especially since the life of a severely abused and traumatized child was on the line. Cops are affected by things they see in the line of duty too!
This is a character-driven novel with a strong message of love and acceptance, and the courage displayed by the protagonists is inspiring. This was an outstanding first novel and I’m definitely up to reading whatever this author writes next.