Author: Robin Roe
Release Date: January 10 (today!)
Source: Disney Book Group on NetGalley (A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.)
Check it out on Goodreads.
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. (Source: Goodreads)
When Julian is reunited with his former foster brother his whole life is turned upside down – again. Getting involved with Adam brings him out of his shell, he makes friends, he starts doing extra curricular activities, but most importantly it angers his Uncle. Adam, unaware of what his presence in Julian’s life is doing, tries to improve Julian’s days and bring him into his social circle.
A List of Cages is potentially one of the darkest and most depressing teen novels I had ever read. There’s nothing wrong with tackling the tough stuff (in the case abuse) but I did struggle a lot to come back from that dark place A List of Cages took me too and I don’t think the end of the book really brought me back up, I don’t think it showed me the light at the end of the tunnel. I do think it was a fairly well written book, it was engaging, the characters were likable, but I think it relied a little too much on tropes like unfeeling and uncaring teachers, and the clueless absent parent figures that are overused in teen lit and TV.
The book is a total Tour de Misery. Every aspect of Julian’s life is just depressing. His parent’s are dead, he has learning disabilities, social phobias, and an abusive guardian. Nothing goes well in this book. It drags you down and buries you in misery. I spent a large portion of this book ready to vomit from depression and fear. The writing was so absolutely emotional, it really hooks you with all these bits and pieces that paint such an accurate picture of misery.
The trouble I had was that I didn’t feel any relief or peace by the end of this book. I was anxious and frazzled still. I was still fearful for both Adam and Julian and the troubles they were still facing going forward. I think the climax happened to close to the end and kept rolling in with additional waves of depression that I didn’t feel like I’d escaped or moved past it at any point. I just felt lost and kind of sick. That was really a struggle for me, because usually there is something to bring you back from the edge, especially in YA.
I thought Julian and Adam were well formed characters. I grew to like them and care about them deeply by the end of the book. I think Julian was a stronger character in that he was more fleshed out. Adam felt like kind of a Mary Sue for most of the book, he’s not super fleshed out, his dialogue and inner voice are riddled with the same types of overused YA “teen talk” stereotypes that make me annoyed (everything is so “friggin” something).
I had other problems with characters though. Every adult at the school in this book is basically the same piece of garbage human that shouldn’t be allowed to associate with teenagers or children. People that clearly hate teens, who want them all to die, it’s that stereotypical unfeeling teacher turned up to 1000, and there’s about 10 of them littered throughout the book. Teachers, doctors, police – they’re all just awful unreasonable people. I couldn’t stand it.
The parents are completely absent throughout this book too. Adam’s mom who is supposed to be kind of hover-y is absent through the climax of the book and doesn’t have any part to play in Julian’s life because Adam is so much the guardian of Julian by the end of the book. I didn’t really get this kind of confused characterization of the mother.
Overall I thought it was a well written book, but I had some issues with it. I would recommend it, but with the warning that it is very depressing, there are very dark themes and topics in this book. I didn’t feel like the clouds cleared, but maybe they will for you.