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 List of Cages was a book I was sure I’d give five stars to. The premise ticked all of my boxes: male protagonists, strong friendship, beautiful writing. And while it was a fantastic read and got me moved to tears at some point, the ending was a bit lacking.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: domestic abuse – physical, emotional and implications of sexual abuse too.
- The brother-like relationship. Our two main characters were once foster brothers that are now reunited. They understand each other so well, and are protective and carrying in a heart-warming way. As someone who literally cries over bromances on a daily basis, this book gave me all the pause-to-gush-over-a-quote moments that I could ask for.
- Adam. (And Julian too. But mostly Adam). I was surprised by how much I loved this character, considering that I was sure Julian would be my favorite. Adam is a kind-hearted, spirited soul, that loves and understands everyone. He’s the type of character that everyone wants to be a friend with; that all teachers love; that makes everyone feel good – even the readers. As the story progresses to a much darker place, it’s interesting to see the new layers of his personality, as he struggles to balance his worries and his own pain with the side of him that wants to take care of everyone too. He was a refreshing three-dimmensional character that I couldn’t be more in love with.
- The friend group! Adam has such an interesting friend group, which he’s definitely the center of. He’s able to pull together all these different people, while surprisingly making it work. Not only they’re unique, but also incredibly supportive and loving. Charlie was a character that I couldn’t stand at the beginning – he was one of those jocks that feel like they can treat freshmen like crap just because they’re seniors -, but as we follow more of him, I realized there were other layers of his personality as well. He ended up being one of my favorite characters by the end of the novel!
- The writing style. It was poetic, beautiful and heartbreaking. I wanted to highlight so many quotes, but I also didn’t want to stop reading.
- You were able to tell the different perspectives apart! This book follows Adam & Julian’s first-person perspectives in alternate chapters, and it was actually pretty easy to tell who was the one talking. They had very different voices, which is quite hard to achieve, so praise for the author for managing to do so!
- It went a bit too far. The climax of this book is pretty much the darkest of the events. Considering that this novel touches on child abuse, you could say it’s predictable. But, in fact, the author creates a very unrealistic scenerio that just makes everything spiral out of control. I think it was pretty noticeable that Julian’s life was a living hell; she didn’t have to go that far to show it. I also think the whole resolution of the climax was way too surreal and could’ve never happened in normal circumstances. Overall, it was way too Holywood-like for me.
- The pacing. After the huge conflict at the end, the book really started to drag out, on my opinon. There wasn’t much going on, and it felt like I was in an endless loop, reading and re-reading the same scene, over and over again. As I read 90% of the book in two hours, it probably took me other two just to go through these last 30 pages.
Overall, I would still recommend A List of Cages. I know it’s a super back-list novel, but I really wish it would get more hype than it does. It’s a beautiful and moving story, and though it tackles issues no one wants to read about, they’re important to be noticed.
I do wish the ending could’ve been better, but it was still an amazing read, with great characters and fantastic writing.
(I would say: try to refrain from making my mistakes and reading this book late at night; not only because you’ll stay up late just to finish it, but also because some things can be quite triggering).
My final rating:
Have you read A List of Cages? If so, how did you like it? This is my first ever review after a loooooong time, so I apologize if it was all over the place (and for my poor English too). Let me know what I can improve for my future ones!