“When I was little, thoughts would always fill my head, because I knew as soon as school ended, my mom or dad would want to hear them all. When you know you’re going to tell someone everything, you see your day through your eyes and theirs, as if they’re living alongside you.
But when you don’t, it isn’t only not seeing double–it’s not seeing at all. Because if they aren’t there, you aren’t either.”
Oh, man, did this book break my heart!
“A List of Cages” is a profoundly moving novel–one that evoked strong feelings from me from the very beginning, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a powerful read for all ages.
Well, maybe not all ages. The publisher recommends this book for ages 12+ and I’d argue that it’s more fitting for 14+, a high schooler, someone the same age as the protagonist. This young adult novel has darkness, real-life angst and violent heartbreak that might be difficult for a preteen to handle.
That being said, as an adult, I adored this novel. I had a strong, visceral reaction to its pull a few pages in, and the more I read, the more connected I felt to its story and characters.
This novel follows two boys, Julian and Adam, over the course of a school year when their lives again collide after having once been brothers. When they meet again, Adam is the senior that everyone wants to be around, forever happy and secure in his place in the world among people who love him. And Julian–oh, my sweet Julian–is a lonely freshman, lost in the world without attachments as the people around him fail to really see him. This story is told using alternating points of view and features a sinister, suspenseful storyline that kept me reading rapidly, even as I suspected it would break my heart. And it did.
This novel doesn’t feature any characters of color, but both protagonists live with neurodevelopmental disorders–one with ADHD, the other with dyslexia (who also displays behavior consistent with some anxiety disorders, though a diagnosis is never mentioned). Both characters and points of view are dynamic and compelling, and the author uses her background in counseling well as these two characters felt so real to me.
“A List of Cages” is Robin Roe’s debut novel and it’s a captivating and deeply moving first impression. She creates a narrative that’s tight with a prism of emotions, one that left me simultaneously anxious, stricken, livid, and joyful throughout the majority of the read, and ultimately impressed and transformed when I finished. I had a feeling pretty early on while reading that this would be a powerful read for me (sometimes you just know when a book will leave its mark), and I was right.
If you like reading about people who live and deal with sadness, but find hope in friendship and love then this is the book for you. It will break your heart and have you in a state of exposed rawness, but it will also restore your faith in humans and reinforce what we know is true:
“Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”
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 kindhearted. 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…