Roe, Robin. A List of Cages. Disney-Hyperion, 2017.
Adam Blake, a senior in high school, is the happiest, most energetic, albeit clumsy, student at his high school. Although he has ADHD, he has learned to compensate and has excelled in his classes and is one of the school’s most popular students. One of his classes involves being a student aide to Dr. Whitlock, the school psychologist, and he is bored most of the time during this period. One day, she asks Adam to locate a freshman named Julian, who, consequently, lived with Adam and his mom for a while after both of his parents were killed in a tragic car accident. After several years, Julian’s uncle took custody of him, and the Blakes were not allowed to see him.
Adam is thrilled to see Julian again and is happy that he actually remembers him. However, Julian has become extremely shy and withdrawn and is slow to open up to Adam. We learn through Julian’s eyes that he also has undiagnosed dyslexia and is scorned by many teachers for his poor grades and scholastic performance.
Adam begins spending a lot of time with Julian, and he is accepted into Adam’s group of senior friends. Adam notices that Julian’s clothes are old and do not fit him well, and that Julian often misses school due to illness. Adam eventually figures out that Julian is keeping secrets from both him and Dr. Whitlock. What Adam and his friends ultimately discover about Julian could put all their lives at risk!
This debut novel by Robin Roe is an emotional roller coaster of a ride. I am a sucker for teenage male protagonists, and she has created some very special ones. The novel is character-driven, told in first-person through the eyes of Adam and Julian. All the characters, including the supporting group, are exceptionally well developed. Adam is just a great guy and well liked by students and teachers. Julian has had a lot of trauma in his life since losing his parents but is still disdained by his teachers and his impatient, evil uncle. All of Adam’s friends have distinct personalities. I did not like Charlie, Adam’s best bud, at first, but he grew so much during the story that I actually ended up loving him. He is like a giant, lovable teddy bear and fiercely loyal to his friends!
The dialogue and setting are authentic, the characters are wonderful, and the villain is hateful. I could not believe the abuse that Julian has to endure from his uncle, who does not even care for him one bit. The scenes where Julian is locked in a trunk emotionally drained me. It was no surprise to find out that Robin Roe is an adolescent counselor, since she portrays the characters so realistically and compassionately.
This novel has it all—family, friendship, great characters, a little romance, drama, and a happy ending, despite cruelty. It is a real page-turner, and I highly recommend it for high school and public libraries. I give it five out of five fleur de lis!