A List of Cages Review
A List of Cages by Robin Roe: My Review
Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.
A List of Cages was a powerful story with a very striking message. I'd never before read a novel that represents child abuse and this really expanded my awareness of such an important societal problem. It definitely elicited emotion as I felt so sorry for Julian who, as a young boy, not only has had to overcome the death of his parents but has lived a very unsettling life until coming to live with his uncle who is probably one of the cruelest contemporary antagonists I've ever read about. The crimes he commits are so inexcusable and horrific; I was so glad to see he got the punishment he ultimately deserved. I absolutely loved Julian, he was so adorable and honestly just deserves all the happiness in the world.
I also found it was very refreshing to read a YA contemporary that didn't focus on romance. A List of Cages primarily highlights the meaning of friendship, brotherhood and the influence of small kind actions on a person living a life full of brutality. Adam invests so much care and time into Julian to make sure he is safe and happy and receives the support he needs, while also having ADHD himself (although for me this didn't feel predominant to his character, which I thought was a shame as I wanted to learn more about people with this mental illness and I think it would have added another dynamic to his character). The love between these two characters unashamedly radiates throughout the book, and the way Charlie's pissed-off, kind-hearted protection steadily grows for Julian was really nice to see. Unfortunately, I didn't think any of the other characters were well developed at all and it really irked me to read how extremely unhelpful almost every adult character was to the main characters, lacking entirely the ability to deal with troubled teenagers.
Alongside my previous point, I could only give this book 3.5 stars because I had a couple of issues with the way it was written and the pacing. While the author really succeeded in making distinctive voices for Adam and Julian and there were definitely some meaningful passages, the writing style came off as quite juvenile and I got a lot of middle grade vibes from it which isn't something I enjoy reading. I almost felt parts of it were written just too simplistically to really resonate with me which was a shame. And lastly, I felt the ending was way too rushed - after such a high level of abuse and trauma is experienced by Julian, we hardly get to see any of his recovery at all, which is one of the most important aspects of a character that goes through psychological suffering.
Overall, my feelings for this book were very mixed, with elements of it that made me very happy to read and others that feel a little flat. I would still recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a novel that explores themes of child abuse and friendship as A List of Cages portrayed these well.