First-time novelist Robin Roe relied on life experience when writing this exquisite, gripping story featuring two lionhearted characters.
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 kind hearted. 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.
THERE IS A room in this school that no one knows about but me. If I could teleport, I'd be there now. Maybe if I just concentrate
"Julian." Mr. Pearce says my name sharp enough to make me flinch. "You're less than a month into high school, and you've missed your English class six times."
I'm sure I've missed more than that, but I guess no one realized I was gone.
The principal leans forward, two fists wrapped around his tall, twisted cane. It has a little creature carved at the top, and I've heard other kids talk about it, wondering if it's a gnome or troll or a tiny replica of Mr. Pearce himself. This close, I can see the resemblance.
"Look at me!" he shouts.
I'm not sure why people want you to look at them when they're angry with you. That's when you want to look away the most. But when I do what he says, the windowless office seems to shrink, and I shrink along with it. A microscopic boy underneath Mr. Pearce's gaze.
Robin Roe has written one helluva young adult debut novel. Alternating first person narratives by a couple of adolescent boys striving to be and do the right thing in a world seemingly ill-suited to their needs feels all too familiar. And Roe’s professional experience as a former counselor imbues the story with jarring grimness, taking an unblinking, behind-the-headlines look at child abuse.
(Reviewed by Donna Chavez).
Full Review (694 words).
In A List of Cages, even though fourteen-year-old Julian displays all the symptoms of an abused child missing school, frequent lies, keeping friends at arm's length, poor grades, etc he doesn't receive the attention he needs from his teachers or his school district's social services. The authorities ask the wrong questions, pay too little attention to subtle physical signs of neglect/abuse, and seem clueless about communicating with children.
Even as I write this there is a headline in the 1 January 2017 Chicago Tribune that relates a horrific story about eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez who was tortured, beaten, burned, starved and then eventually died in 2013. The article mentions disciplinary action for ...
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