My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First Published: January 10th, 2017
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Abuse, Contemporary, Friendship, High School, Family
When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years. Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…
If this story doesn’t make you emotional, I have to bring to the table the idea that you might actually be an android. Yes, you’ve been exposed.
Because how could anyone be unaffected by such injustice and cruelty toward a fourteen-year-old?
Julian’s parents died when he was a child, leaving him with a foster care family for some time, and then with his uncle Russell, who has been abusing him both mentally and physically since.
Unfortunately, like other victims of abuse, Julian doesn’t understand that what he’s experiencing at home is not normal, so he doesn’t know he needs help. Though his friendship with Adam does make him question some of his uncle’s actions and ways of thinking, such as why he insists on Julian shaving his legs.
Julian and Adam may be four years apart in age, but that doesn’t keep them from being able to connect to one another on a meaningful level – so meaningful that it made me realize that friendships between two young men are rarely so thoroughly explored in YA contemporary, without going in the romantic direction.
It’s beautifully-touching and never manipulative. The author doesn’t seek to control our reactions, but of course being the decent human beings that we are, we quickly notice that Russell has deep-rooted issues that only hurt Julian and prevent him from living a good life.
I can’t believe it took me so long to give this one a chance, especially since I read it in a single day. I was afraid it would be too dark, but while Robin Roe does include scenes that are hard to witness, her goal isn’t to overwhelm us to the point of not being able to read this book either.
An excellent debut novel.
Follow me on: