A List of Cages
Published January 10, 2017
Julian’s life is a tightrope walk. At school, he hides from belligerent teachers and from his trouble reading. At home, he tiptoes around the house where he’s not allowed to touch anything, where the only things that belong to him are the possessions in the trunk his parents gave him.
When the school counselor gets tired of Julian dodging his appointments with her, she sends her aide, a senior named Adam to find Julian. Adam quickly recognizes Julian as the foster brother who lived with him and his mom five years ago. Now, though, Julian isn’t the chatty kid he once was, and Adam has to figure out why. As he begins to uncover Julian’s secrets, he realizes Julian could be in terrible danger, but trying to rescue him could cost both boys their lives.
This isn’t the book I expected it to be. The story opens with Julian’s point-of-view, and right away, I was pretty hooked. He’s quiet—the kind of kid that struggles to come up with quick responses in conversation. The kind of kid that makes for an easy target to get picked on. But he’s kind and artistic, and I couldn’t help wanting him to find a way through his troubles.
Then I met Adam. Adam is likeable for a whole other host of reasons. He’s bouncy and fun and always upbeat. I loved that about him, and I loved his relationship with his grouchy-but-goodhearted best friend Charlie. I liked that Adam’s ADHD wasn’t the story. You kind of got the picture of how his mind worked and what life was like for him without it being center-stage.
What I didn’t like was the way Adam seemed so protective of Julian in some ways and sort of oblivious in other ways—like bringing him alcohol at a party and expecting his friends not to get Julian too drunk. That didn’t play for me, and I really had a hard time with how casual the attitude about alcohol was, especially when Adam and his mom were so careful about so many other things, like choosing homeopathic remedies over prescription drugs because of adverse side effects. Alcohol doesn’t have adverse side effects? This isn’t a concern?
Anyway. Sorry. Soapbox. Moving on.
The story had so many positive elements in it—messages about the healing power of love in friendships and family, the value of having the support of a community of people through a hard time. I think I would have enjoyed the story more if it lacked some of the casual attitude toward drinking and sex. See below for further notes on content.
I can’t remember any racial descriptions of characters, but I’m not sure if that’s because they’re all hinted to be white or if I just imagined them that way whereas I could have imagined them other ways? Adam is diagnosed with ADHD.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used with moderate frequency.
Some boy-girl kissing. In one scene a boy remembers a moment where he asked a girl to show him her vagina. Later a girl makes a suggestive comment with her hand on the zipper of his pants. (We later learn not much happened there because she was drunk and got sick.) A boy and girl spend several days together alone in a mountain cabin where they decide to have sex. She waits for him in bed, undressed, but no further details are given.
Adam’s group of friends play a game in which one dares another to do something up to and including some nudity. Two boys have to take off their shirts and put palms on each other’s chests. A girl gives a pair of her underwear to a boy and he has to wear them.
Violent Content – TRIGGER WARNING
One character suffers some extreme physical abuse in more than one scene. Some of those details are pretty disturbing.
Julian goes with Adam to a party where all the kids drink alcohol and someone passes a pipe around the room. Julian drinks what the others give him. Adam tries to make sure it’s lighter stuff, but doesn’t try to keep him from drinking.
Adam’s mom uses homeopathic remedies to treat his ADHD after a bad experience with the side effects of prescription drugs.