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Fall 2016 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Robin Roe

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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roe_robinBefore the events of Robin Roe’s A List of Cages, Julian’s parents were killed; the little boy found a home with Adam’s family until his uncle Russell showed up and took him away. When the boys meet again in high school, Adam becomes worried that Julian isn’t safe in Russell’s home.

1. I think every school has its share of Julians — kids whose lives are extraordinarily hard both at school and at home. How can we encourage other students to be kind to them?

RR: We all have someone we’d do anything for. But not everyone has someone who’d do anything for them. Julian says he’s “one of those people you aren’t supposed to talk to if other people are around to see.” It can feel risky, especially in adolescence, to reach out to someone like Julian for fear of what others might think. But my dream school — my dream world — is a place where kindness is the most valued virtue.

2. Which of your two narrators came to your imagination first, Adam or Julian?

RR: Both, actually. The very first image I had for the book was of a boy in a dark auditorium, waiting for his friend’s play to begin.

roe_list-of-cages3. What do you recall about your own reading as a teen that helped in the creation of this book?

RR: My favorite genre was horror, and I loved Stephen King novels. I really connected with his protagonists, who were vulnerable but incredibly strong.

4. Why do we like to read about terrifying things?

RR: It’s cathartic. Fear is such a primal emotion — one that helps us reconnect with other emotions that may have become muted. Talking about the things that terrify us can be difficult, even stigmatizing. But when we read, and live in the mind of the main character, we’re forced to face those fears.

5. Where do you see Julian and Adam in ten years?

RR: Adam and Julian rarely contemplate what lies ahead. Adam usually thinks in a positive, let’s-live-in-the-moment kind of way, although he sometimes operates in an impulsive, maybe-I-should-have-thought-that-through way. Julian, on the other hand, has a sense of foreshortened future like many people who’ve experienced trauma, and it’s almost impossible for him to imagine a life beyond today. But both Adam and Julian would hope that in ten years they’d still be an important part of each other’s lives.

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