So far, Adam Blake is winning the contest of My Favorite Male YA character of 2017. He is adorable, friendly to all, smiley, funny, popular with all, loves his momma, bumbling, clumsy, sweet, and has the cutest case of ADHD I have ever read. Dude cannot sit still, constantly fidgets, gets bored quickly, is impulsive, and knows and owns all of this about himself. He has found a way to turn all of these qualities (which are most often viewed negatively) into downright charming features. Adam is a fluffy, playful Golden Retriever that you want to cuddle and play with.
It is not possible for Julian to be any more different from Adam. Julian lost his parents when he was very young. Until that time, he had a happy normal childhood; he was a boy who knew he was loved. All of that changed when his custody was given to his uncle, Russell (his father’s sister’s husband - not even a blood relative!). Russell’s behavior toward Julian is cruel, neglectful, frightening, cold, and downright abusive. Julian is no longer and happy, loved child. He is scared, distrustful, strange, bullied, uncomfortable in his own skin, and friendless. Most people want to stay away from Julian, but Adam is drawn to him.
When Julian’s parents died, he briefly lived in foster care with Adam and Adam’s mom. Adam’s mom was hoping he could stay permanently but Russell decided he wanted custody. If it wasn’t for Russell, Julian might have grown up as Adam’s brother. Oh, how Julian’s life would have been different. Because Adam is a charmer, he ends up with an elective his senior year where all he has to do is assist the school psychologist. She assigns him to Julian who is a freshman. Of course, Adam remembers Julian. And because Adam is the nicest person on the planet, he starts taking care of Julian, looking out for him, befriending him. Having a friend who cares about Julian and wants and expects nothing in return is a new concept for Julian. Allowing it doesn’t come easily. What if Russell finds out? When the unthinkable happens, Adam is shaken to his core and is left wondering if he did the right thing at all by trying to help Julian.
Teens that love abuse stories are gonna eat this one up. I generally do not like abuse stories (as a mom, they are just too difficult for me to stomach), but the way the abuse is written is not graphic. Although everything that happens to Julian is truly horrific, the scenes were not difficult to read. Teens that do like the more graphic stories (like A Child Called It) will not be disappointed, though. I know that sounds terrible . . . A List of Cages is told from both Julian and Adam’s POV. Although Julian’s story is tragic and compelling, Adam’s journey was my favorite. A definite contender for Gateway.