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Cages Paperback – June 25, 2001
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9-- In a vulnerable moment of self-pity, 14-year-old Kit Hathaway pockets an expensive gold bracelet in a department store and is arrested for shoplifting. Sentenced by a juvenile-court committee, she is assigned 20 volunteer hours at the humane society. There she falls in love with a spirited little terrier who, tragically, is euthanized before Kit can find a home for her. She also finds it increasingly difficult to keep her shoplifting a secret, especially from her best friend. It is during a final class speech that Kit decides to reveal what she has done. With painful realism, Kehret shows the legal and emotional ramifications of teen shoplifting, but this is much more than a cautionary tale. Corollary themes of parental alcoholism and its incipient child abuse and animal population control are deftly handled. The story slips occasionally toward easy solutions, especially when Kit and her stepfather, avowed adversaries, too easily settle their differences. Nevertheless, Kit's determination to free herself from the cages of alcohol enablement, jealousy, and, ultimately, the secret of her crime make her an appealing protagonist. --Sylvia V. Meisner, Allen Middle School, Greensboro,
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
It's bad enough that Kit doesn't make the cast of the school play; when she goes home, her stepfather is drunk again. Later, seeing conceited classmate Marcia at a jewelry store, she impulsively tries to steal a bracelet and is arrested, fined, and sentenced to a period of community service at the local Humane Society. Kit's shame and humiliation increase as she lies to keep the incident secret, even from steadfast friend Tracy; worse, she discovers that her final exam in speech is to be an oral report on shoplifting. Kit's character and her distress are simply drawn but believable. The plot takes several melodramatic turns (a beloved stray is put to sleep just as Kit is arranging its adoption; her mother is suddenly hospitalized; her stepfather goes on another binge and has a serious auto accident) that make the concluding release still more effective: Tracy confesses eloquently to her class and is awarded not only an ``A'' but a coveted scholarship. Kehret pushes her message hard, but in positive ways. (Fiction. 11-14) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In "Cages," Kehret sets aside her usual formula: this time, it's her protagonist who's on the wrong side of the law. Kit Hathaway thought she had a good chance at the lead role in the school play, but when the cast list is posted, her name is nowhere on it. Coming home from school in a bad mood, the last thing she needs is to discover her stepfather's drunk again. Fed up with his boorish behavior and her mother's enabling, Kit storms out of the house. A bit of window-shopping at the mall seems like a fine way to pass the time until she has to go home again, but when she runs into the spoiled, obnoxious girl who won the lead role she'd so coveted - and she's there with her father to celebrate her accomplishment with a new piece of gold jewelry - Kit decides it's time, just once, for her to get something she wants too, and she slips a gold bracelet into her pocket. It's the impulse of a moment, an act entirely out of character for the quiet, studious ninth-grader - but with the flash of a badge, the words "I'm with store security," Kit's whole life is about to change.
It's not a thriller, but somehow "Cages," even more than two decades after I first read it, keeps me turning pages as hungrily as any of Kehret's novels of suspense ever did. Sentenced to community service, Kit becomes a volunteer for the Humane Society, bringing to the fore the novel's central metaphor: Kit feels just as trapped and desperate as the unwanted animals in their cages. It's a pleasure to watch the troubled girl blossom into a young woman of rare strength and courage, with the aid and guidance of a warm, wise cast of mentors and friends. Without ever coming across as heavy-handed or denying the reality of emotional pain, Kehret delivers a strong message of personal accountability: you can't control the cards you're dealt, but it's up to you how you play them. One of her greatest accomplishments here - and an unfortunately rare one in the world of children's literature - is Kehret's complex portrayal of Kit's mother and stepfather. It would have been easy either to make them simple villains on the one hand, or offer them pat and perfect redemption on the other. Instead, they are portrayed throughout as flawed and fallible people doing the best they can while trapped in cages of their own, and Kit learns to love and respect them as they are even as she rejects some of their values and priorities.
"Cages" is a slender novel that packs a surprising emotional wallop. I still can read the last third or so of the book only through a blur of tears. Please read it. (And then, if you love it as much as I do, try Kathe Koja's "Straydog," an equally trenchant - but somewhat heavier - novel about a likable but troubled teenage girl who volunteers with animals.)
Cages is about a girl named Kit who is experiencing a difficult personal life. Her stepdad is regularly drunk and her poor mom is in denial about his behavior. A snobby rich girl gets the lead for the play while Kit, who was vying for the same part, is overlooked. Instead, she is assigned the job of making posters to increase the play's publicity. This culmination of unfortunate events results in a stress that motivates her to lash out. Due to her bad behavior, she is forced to work at the Humane Society for 20 hours. Her time at the Humane Society helps Kit grow as a person and better understand herself. It is a coming-of-age novel and one that tweens might find valuable and heartwarming. I personally loved this book but I've always loved animals.
*I wrote this review when I was 14? And I am just now editing, but below this sentence is a cute little scrap that I will allow to remain:*
P.s. I realized that if Ms. Fenton would have chosen Kit to be the lead none of this would have happened. One decision can make or break you. This situation "broke" Kit but worked out for the better. ;)
The story revolves around Kit, a ninth grader who has just discovered she was passed over for the lead role in her school play. To add insult to injury, the role was given to a self-involved girl that Kit is not particularly fond of. Disappointed and upset, Kit heads home at the end of the day thinking she will spend the evening relaxing to cheer herself up. When she arrives, she finds her stepdad in the middle of a binge drinking session, and her mother tip-toeing around to placate him. In no mood for her stepdad's belligerence, they argue, and Kit leaves even more troubled than before. Unsure of where to go, Kit ends up at the local mall where she runs into Marcie, the girl who won the lead role in the play. Marcie's father is buying her a gold bracelet as a "congratulations" present. In a moment of jealousy, confusion and frustration, Kit shoplifts a gold bracelet for herself. Her decision sets off a chain reaction of events that open her eyes to who she is, and she wants to be.
What stuck with me when I was younger was that Kit takes responsibility for her actions. Although her decisions were affected by her stepdad's words, she holds herself accountable for her choice to shoplift and the resulting consequences. Kit finds a strength in herself and plans to make ammends. And even though it takes her several tries to set her life straight, she emerges with a new understanding of herself and the relationships with the people she loves. Kit learns from her mistakes, and the reader learns with her.
By the last chapter, I always want to stand up and give Kit a round of applause. I hope other readers feel that way too! Definitely 5 stars!
Most recent customer reviews
I first read this when I was girl in the early nineties. Years later I still remember the vivid sequences of Kit's struggles.Read more