February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A List of Cages by Robin Roe | SLJ Review

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redstarROE, Robin. A List of Cages. 320p. ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484763803.

a-list-of-cagesGr 9 Up –Julian—shy, quiet, and nervous—has just entered high school, and it’s a nightmare. Kids pick on him for the children’s books that he keeps in his backpack; teachers berate him for not speaking up in class and for handing in near-illegible assignments because of his undiagnosed dyslexia. He hides away in the school theater at lunchtime just to get away from everything, and he has to go home to his tyrannical and abusive uncle, who beats him with a switch. His daily appointments with the school psychiatrist yield nothing but further anxiety, until one day, Julian discovers that Adam, his former foster brother, is the psychiatrist’s intern. Adam’s family took Julian in after his parents were killed in a car crash, but then his uncle stepped forward as his legal guardian, and Julian was taken away. Adam, a bright, popular senior with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, takes Julian under his wing and brings him out of his shell, and when Julian abruptly “falls ill” for two weeks, Adam and his friends suspect there is something much more sinister at hand. Roe, a social worker, has written a stunning debut about loss, friendship, and the power of family. Many scenes of abuse will challenge readers with authentic detail; Julian suffers regular beatings and is, at one point, locked in a chest without food. Emotional, visceral, and heartbreaking, this novel offers expertly rendered characters and beautiful language, especially when describing Julian’s struggles. VERDICT A potent and moving work. Do not pass over this book.–Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2017 issue.

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