Sunday, April 30, 2017

A List of Cages, by Robin Roe

Julian and Adam met years ago when Adam was a fifth-grader with ADHD helping kindergartner Julian with his reading.  When Julian's parents died around that time, it was Adam's mom who took Julian in for a while (until Julian's uncle took him away).

Reunited seven years later in Adam's senior year, Adam takes a strong protective interest in Julian.  He's suspicious that something is not right about how Julian is living (Julian skips classes and hides out in a secret safe place at school during the day).  But as Adam pushes harder to break through Julian's secrets, he plunges both of them into great danger.

A novel that works best because of its unusual pairing of the two boys -- split by age, but bonding over their developmental issues.  It's a complex relationship that balances the friendship of Julian and Adam, with Adam's friendships with his peers -- a multidimensional dynamic that Roe handles well.

I felt she didn't do quite as good of a job with the storytelling.  Roe leaves many of the threads unresolved -- a decision that sometimes works, but not always.  For example, I thought the romance between Adam and Emerald was frustratingly vague.  And the creepy uncle character seemed gratuitous.  It's a good case of less-is-more: as a villain, he casts a long shadow and his actual appearances in the story add little.  Finally (and most surprisingly), while we see how both boys have imprisoned themselves in their respective "cages," their escape from those bonds are left unexplored.

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