This book deserves ten million stars oh my goodness. I haven't had my heart broken and then slowly pieces back together in such a long time.
A List of Cages is about our main character Julien who is an orphan and living with his uncle. Julien is a freshman who keeps to himself for the most part, reads a childhood favorite book series on repeat, and eats PB&J sandwiches in a secret room at school during lunch. Until a senior named Adam, his foster brother from a home he lived in before being with his uncle, talks to him at school. Adam is determined to have Julien back in his life again, and Julien's secrets of what is happening in his home start to be revealed.
"If I really had powers, I could turn off pain the way I can shut my eyes. But I can't. I feel it. Skin doesn't get thicker. Instead, it remembers."
This book is heartbreaking, but at the same really touching. There are sad parts, but there are moments of love, family, and friendship sprinkled throughout the story and because of those scenes you realize how attached you are to the main characters. It sneaks up on you and suddenly you're sobbing for Adam, Julien, their friends, and even Adam's Mom. I almost wish we had more scenes with her and Julien. You can tell she cares for him but because we don't have too many scenes with them together (either flashbacks or in the present) there isn't as big of a family moment between them. I do love her scenes with Adam though, their dynamic was really sweet. Her yelling at the TV during reality television/game shows had me laughing.
"The sick nervous feeling I had just a minute ago has disappeared. Instead I feel something warm spread through my body. People I love will be watching me. Their eyes like safety nets, I can't fall."
I loved Julien. He was so sweet and innocent. I wanted to reach into the book and hug/protect him the entire time. I also loved Adam. He was such a humorous and loving character. I want more books with them just because they're so great. I really enjoyed that some of Adam's friends have their own personalities. The biggest ones being Emerald, Adam's crush, and Charlie, Adam's best friend. I really enjoyed Adam and Emerald's relationship. Although it's not the focus (the friendship of our two main characters has a stronger role - which I absolutely love) the few scenes you have with them together are really sweet. It's not over the top but instead it is subtle and real. When it comes to Charlie, I got really annoyed with him really easily because of how protective I was of Julien. You're supposed to, but the more you get to know him you realize he's a big softy. I found his motives to be realistic and I think they were done well writing wise. Because of the way your attachment to the characters sneak up on you, I found myself really protective of Julien the way Adam was so it was hard not to get annoyed with Charlie. Especially since we know Julien's secret and it makes you feel for him so much more. The scene where Charlie offers Julien a ride home had me in tears.
"Hate ricochets, but kindness does too."
I don't want to give anything away, but the secret Julien is holding had me in tears. Every time it was brought up I found myself holding my breath. Wanting someone else to know, wanting Julien to be protected. Each of the scenes focused around it are written so powerfully that I found myself flinching. There's a couple moments of Julien remembering his parents tucking him in and asking him how many stars were in the sky and it always made my heart clench because they obviously loved their son.
"It's strange how many ways there are to miss someone. You miss the things they did and who they were, but you also miss who you were to them. The way everything you said and did was beautiful or entertaining or important. How much you mattered."
I think this book is an important one. I want more young adult books with friendships being the main focus. I enjoy romance, but this is the kind of stuff that really gets to me. Robin Roe did an amazing job. I wanted to quote so many more passages. Highly recommend this to everyone.