A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Received from NetGalley for review.

Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.

A List of Cages is a heart-breaking, but ultimately heart-warming, novel about the friendship between fourteen-year-old lonely and shy Julian and seventeen-year old vibrant and loving Adam. We learn early on that Julian used to be Adam’s foster brother, until his Uncle claimed custody, and five years later they meet again, with Adam taking an elective as the school psychologists’ assistant and being assigned to Julian – initially to escort him to his appointments with Dr. Whitlock.

The narrative switches between Adam and Julian’s perspective, which quickly builds an image of each character and their vastly different lives; I can guarantee that Julian’s chapters will tear you apart and have you feeling so deeply for him it hurts. Adam is a happy-go-lucky senior, who happens to have ADHD, and his personality shines off the page – you can easily imagine him being loved by all who come across him, as he has a naturally happy disposition and looks on the bright side of life thanks to his strong relationship with his mother and his friends (you’ll love Charlie, trust me). When he is assigned to Julian he immediately knows something is wrong; yes Julian’s parents are dead but Adam remembers him as so much more when he was younger, now he is just a shell of his former self, hollowed out and in clothes that don’t fit. Julian’s story is slowly revealed throughout the novel and it will break your heart – his teachers are impatient with him, his Uncle is abusive, and friends are non-existent, but Julian remains a bright, sweet, and kind boy who deserves love and kindness in return.

Because when you’re between two shores and no one can see you, you don’t really exist at all.

The writing is fast-paced and easy to read whilst still building a very strong sense of Adam and Julian’s characters and all the atmosphere and feelings that go along with being in high school. I especially love how Roe has shown how vastly different people’s lives can be, especially in terms of the school setting; Julian’s home life shows the sad reality that not everyone has a loving home and that perceived behaviour issues are often the result of something else, something entirely out of the student’s or teacher’s control. People (teachers and students alike) think that Julian is a strange loner who can’t read or write and cuts class but it is his home life and the influence of his Uncle that cause many of his problems. I know myself how hard it can be when you have a student you just can’t seem to reach, but A List of Cages reminds me to simply keep trying and to always remember that there’s usually a good reason for disruptive or rebellious behaviour.

If you enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower I imagine you’ll enjoy this, as the story has a very similar vibe without being a carbon copy. There’s heartbreak and horror, but I think it is ultimately uplifting; everything is not resolved and sunshine and daises at the end, but there is hope and potential for such a thing. I’m going to sign off this review with this gem of a quote that had me laughing out loud and falling more in love with this book:

“Getting smacked in the face with a Harry Potter book does not qualify as a fight,” Charlie says.

“First of all, it wasn’t just any Harry Potter book. It was Order of the Phoenix.”

Matt gasps. He knows Order of the Phoenix is the longest and most potentially dangerous of all the Harry Potter books when used as a weapon.

Read: December 28th 2016-January 1st 2017

4/5 stars

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3 thoughts on “A List of Cages by Robin Roe

  1. whatthelog says:

    I’ve wanted to read this for a while, so thanks for the review! Also thanks for the heads up about the abuse plotline – that’s not something I’d like to stumble upon without pre-warning.

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