Book Reviews

A List of Cages by Robin Roe


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…

A review that isn’t quite a review:

After some thought, I have decided that I cannot rate this book at this time. I went into this knowing it would be sad, knowing it would be emotional, knowing that it covered abuse, and I was prepared for that. I was looking for a sad book. But what I did not expect was for Julian’s mentality and issues to mirror mine so closely. Not in the aspect of physical abuse, but in what I have been led to believe and his social situation. It was almost too close for comfort, and therefore I cannot trust myself to properly critique this book.

I wanted to see more hope in this book. I’ve seen how hard it can be when you are an outsider, cannot connect with others, or think you do not deserve to/are not worth it, and I just longed to see more progress in Julian overcoming this. I wanted him to be able to take more steps by himself, but it seemed like he was already so locked down by his prior experiences that he couldn’t do much without someone else’s support.

This is one example of why I don’t think I can rate this book. Even though I know that it is really hard in real life to move past what holds you back, I still really wanted to see it happen faster, because, I guess… it is personally what I wish I could do.

Julian and Adam’s friendship is very touching, yes, and Adam’s way of interacting with Julian was very well done. I loved how Adam knew when to be firm with Julian, and when it was best to leave him be. But not everyone has a friend to help them on their way, so that’s why I wanted to see more of Julian’s personal strength.

I feel like the ending was almost… too easy? I’m going to clarify real quickly, because those of you who have read the book are probably thinking right now that there was nothing easy about it. Julian did go through so, so, much, and it was a painful read. But I feel like the solution to get Julian on his path of… is “recovery” the right word? I feel like the event that the author chose to set him on his path of recovery wasn’t the right choice. As much as I wanted to see Julian getting better, this method seemed to make it feel too rushed and sudden.

Still, this book was good. For the most part, Julian and his situation were written well, and I feel like the author did understand what she was writing about. (Looking at Robin Roe’s bio, she has counselled adolescents.) This book has a pretty high chance of making you cry, for I almost did, and I very rarely cry.

One of the most painful parts in this book, for me, was how Julian allowed what he was taught by his mother to shadow his common sense. He was told that people are mean because they are unhappy, and this is true. Unhappiness can lead to… a lot. Some people become mean because they themselves were subjected to the same things as a child, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

But just because someone is unhappy, does that justify what they do to you in return?

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