It’s dark outside, cloudy and starless, when Russell calls me into the living room and aims one long finger down. The hardwood floor is stained, spoiled, like footprints left in wet cement.
Earlier this afternoon I cleaned my shoes using something I found under the kitchen sink. They were gleaming white by the time I set them on the living room floor, but I guess there was till some bleach on the soles.
“You have to learn to respect other people’s things,” Russell says, his voice calm and steady.
“I’m sorry. It was stupid.”
“Yes,” he agrees. “It was.” He pauses, and my stomach knots while I wait for him to decide.
Then he says, “Go get it.”
I freeze for a moment, then walk to the massive cabinet against the dining room wall. Whenever we used to visit this house, my mother would always say how beautiful the cabinet was, the dark cherry wood with shelves of antiques and paper-thin dishes.
I open the long drawer at the bootom filled with lacy tablecloths and napkins. Underneath them is a thin willow switch. I watch my hand shake as I reach out for it, then return to the living room.
I put it in his outstretched hand.
There’s a sudden leap in his throat and the slightest catch in his voice when he says, “Take off your shirt.”
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.
Normally I will post one of my favorite part of a book as the sneak peek. But it’s very safe to say I don’t have a favorite part of this book. A List of Cages broke my heart approximately 65 times while I read it. Instead, I tried to post a section that sums up what you’re getting yourself into when you read this book, without giving away too much of the story plot.
And it is very important that you get yourself into this book. Or any book like it. Books like these, that make us feel things that hurt and aren’t comfortable and are so scary close to real life, are important and help us grow.
Adam Blake is a well liked senior whose life may not be perfect, but it’s good. He lands a coveted elective position serving as the aide to the school psychologist which has been known to be an easy gig. Struggling with ADHD does mean that he also struggles with the amount of sitting around associated with the job title but he won’t complain since he gets to spend the period texting his friends. It changes when he is asked to track down the troubled and reclusive freshman that has been evading her-Julian. The same Julian that his mom fostered five years ago and who was placed with his uncle rather abruptly.
Adam is thrilled to be reunited. As an only child, he had come to love Julian as his little brother and having Julian placed with someone else had broken a little part of both him and his mother. At first, Julian appears to be the boy he knew back then. He is still achingly kindhearted and he still writes stories and loves books. Then Adam realizes he seems like the exact boy he knew then, even in maturity. The books he is obsessed with are the same picture books he was obsessed with at nine years old, of Elian Mariner. The more he hangs out with Julian, the more he starts to understand that he is keeping secrets, awful and gut wrenching secrets about where he disappears to when the school psychologist can’t find him and what exactly happens behind closed doors in his home.
Adam is determined to help him, but he doesn’t know where to begin since Julian insists that he needs to leave it alone and that he’s fine, and his friends seem to believe he needs to honor Julian’s wish.
Then Julian disappears for several days, nineteen to be exact, and Adam makes a discovery so horrifying that it changes everything.
I feel like I have turned a corner with my blog with this book. It wasn’t intentional, completely, but I’ve never intended my blog to just cover books that were easy. I feel like that is the tone is has taken over the past year, though, since those were the types of books I turned to during a stressful and difficult pregnancy. But now I’m back, and I’m slowly treading into the darker waters, beginning with this book.
I’ve told several people that I cried for a long time reading this book, but I don’t think anyone really gets it. Guys- I had serious, literal, “almost impossible to read through” tears through 75% of this book. I started it haphazardly one night while nursing Squish into the wee hours of the night and ended up staying up to finish it because I legitimately felt that if I stopped reading, that was just longer that Julian had to suffer. That’s how much this book affected me.
Previously to writing, Robin Roe was a counselor who specialized in counseling adolescents and then she moved to Texas to run a mentoring program for at-risk teens. In the jacket of this book, she states that she relied on life experience when writing this novel. So this isn’t something she just pulled out of a hat. She drew on things she knew for this. And I’m not naive. I realize that I have led an extremely privileged life and had a great childhood by comparison. But there’s a difference between recognizing your privilege and letting it rule your life (entitlement) and knowing that just because you can’t necessarily relate to the situation doesn’t mean these things don’t happen.
And honestly if we aren’t allowing ourselves to recognize this, and teaching our kids the same, we will fall into the entitlement pool of thought and I refuse to let myself do so.
Age wise, I’m going to recommend this for 8th grade and up. Yes there is cussing and yes is deals with a very hard subject but kids can’t always be sheltered from the reality that life is hard and painful and downright awful to other people sometimes. And that there is always a way to help. I probably wouldn’t recommend Adam’s method, go through the right authorities guys, but if you know of something, DO or SAY something about it. Don’t be complicit.
This is the part where I normally say “Happy reading!” but instead I’m going to leave you with this:
Read something that takes you outside of your comfort zone and makes you uncomfortable and stretches you as a person. Empathy is valuable to raising great adults and being a great adult.