A List of Cages by Robin Roe

f55 stars

After finishing A List of Cages a couple of weeks ago, I was an emotional mess. Not only had I become so attached to the main characters, Adam and Julian, but all I wanted was for more, more, more of their story.

This was such a moving novel that was beautifully executed and made me laugh, cry, smile, and most of all, feel.

Here’s the summary to give you a glimpse into the novel:

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…

There are so many important topics addressed in the story. It’s definitely aimed for more mature young adult readers because of some of its content matter.

Dealing with child abuse, Roe’s novel manages to give a realistic and stark view of situations in some children’s houses. She doesn’t tiptoe around the subject matter, but dives right in and writes what’s happening.

I would recommend younger readers (13 & younger) to analyze whether they’re ready to read this. The abuse described in the novel isn’t extremely detailed, but you read almost everything that happens & some scenes can be shocking. It’s very heartrending and may cause strong feelings for some readers.

Some people might think it wasn’t a good choice for Roe to include these scenes so blatantly, but I personally loved how she included the more serious topics. I cried during some of them because they were so moving, which is something I rarely do.

The harshness of some of these scenes helped force the reader into understanding what was happening. I think this is groundbreaking in young adult literature dealing with child abuse because it’s important to learn about this instead of dancing around the topics.

I mean, imagine what would happen if a teen suffering from abuse read this in a school library and realized that they needed to talk to an adult? That this could potentially save someone’s life?

That’s why this novel is helping forge an even greater path in young adult contemporary.

Naturally, there are other novels that deal with child abuse, but this one really struck a chord in my heart.

Besides the issues Julian faces with dyslexia and bullying, Adam has ADHD, and Roe touches on things like the foster system in America and therapy.

Roe manages to work with all of this with taste and fluidity, making this a novel I almost couldn’t put down.

It was refreshing to read the alternating POVs of Adam and Julian and being able to see their starkly contrasting minds. Adam is so happy and bright and someone you love reading about. It balances out the darker thoughts Julian has which pull you further into this story.

Besides the sadness present in parts of the novel, there are, of course, lighter parts of the novel like Adam’s love life & how his friends react to Julian being back in his life.

Not romance-centric, this novel doesn’t give you much to ship, but focuses more on relationships between friends and family, which is always a pleasure to read.

I enjoyed seeing character flaws in all the characters, whether it was Adam’s best friend Charlie, Julian, or Adam himself, they all made mistakes, but most of all, they learned from these and grew as characters.

I was never bored reading it, though some people could say it was slow in the beginning if the subject matter didn’t interest them.

Feeling so many different emotions–hope, sadness, love, empowerment–made the reading experience so much better.

As much as I would love more on Adam and Julian, I know their story is complete & I’m satisfied with how Roe ended the novel. It wrapped up the loose ends and gave the reader hope for a better future.

I would definitely recommend this novel to all contemporary lovers. A List of Cages is definitely at the top of my To Buy list of books, not only beautiful on the outside (the papery texture of the cover is delightful!) but also the inside. I can’t wait to see it sitting on my bookshelf!

Robin Roe’s debut novel was poignant & definitely on my favorites list. I will be anxiously waiting to see what she writes next.

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Have you read a List of Cages? I’d love to discuss it (& fangirl) with you in the comments, or answer any questions you have!

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