Expected publication: January 10th 2017 by Disney-Hyperion
A List of Cages is not an easy book to read, that is for sure. Nonetheless, it is a book the younger readers should try, as there are not a lot of good ones written on the topic of abuse and the effects it has on the mind of its victims.
The book is written from two perspectives - Julian and Adam, two boys that were once paired in a class, despite the age difference. Adam was to help kindergartner Julian how to read better. Later, he finds out Julian is a little older than that, but is suffering from dyslexia. Fate brings them together again when Julian is orphaned, as Adam's mother is a very kind social worker who welcomes the scared boy into her home, with plans to adopt him. But Julian's uncle comes into picture, taking him away, breaking all contact between the boys, and that's when the physical abuse starts.
While the descriptions of what this sick uncle does to the little child are not that detailed, the publisher citing the book suitable for ages 12 and up, I think I wouldn't really recommend it under 15 years. It can be quite traumatizing to read what poor Julian has to go through, and to stomach how he finds excuses for his abuser, how unhappiness can cause you to hurt others. He develops something similar to the Stockholm syndrome, blaming himself for not being good enough, angering his uncle. Despite the pain he is suffering, he finds himself feeling uneasy whenever his uncle is not home, willing to go through anything just so he can still live with him. When offered help by his new friends, he goes out of his way to defend his uncle, afraid of not respecting his rules, desperate even for things to remain the same.
The story is painfully real, with so many young people stuck in similar situations, or who were lucky enough to escape. I think this book was needed, there's never enough help on this subject, and anything which can raise awareness or cause people to seek help should be encouraged. While reading, I kept thinking how logical Julian's train of thoughts feels, despite it being wrong.
Going through something like he does and not breaking, you have to find a reason, some good thought to hang on to. Julian is obsessed, ever since he was little, with Elian Mariner books, a series the author has invented which would be somewhat similar to The Chronicles of Narnia. These are the books he used to read with Adam, and his safe place. He read them so much they are barely holding their pages together. There is a question haunting him, where does Elian go while he's traveling between worlds, in the split moments where he's in neither place. This question gets amplified by his parents' tragic deaths and we see him keep getting back to seeking answers.
The character development is quite something, Julian going from the picture of an abused, lonely child, to someone who has friends that care about his well being. Adam is the trigger that causes a change in Julian's life, and little by little, things will turn out well. His is a happy ending. In real life, most victims never manage to escape from their abusers, be it family, spouse or someone entirely not related. I am glad I read this book, as heartbreaking as it was, and I hope in time, people will be getting more and more aware of this problem. If you are in such a situation, don't be afraid to seek help. You are not alone, you are not to blame, you deserve to be happy and safe.