Review: The Cage (Shepherd)

AUTHOR: Megan Shepherd
SERIES: The Cage, book 1
PUBLISHER: Balzer+Bray
ISBN: 9780062243058
PAGES: 400
SOURCE: Edelweiss
GENRE: sci-fi
SETTING: inside an “enclosure” in an alien city on another planet, far from Earth
GIVE IT TO: upper-MS, HS

SUMMARY: Five teens are abducted by aliens, taken to another planet, and held inside an alien zoo. Chapters alternate perspectives.

REVIEW: So much to say about this one! First of all, the blurb and gorgeous front cover will make The Cage incredibly easy to book talk with my students. Though they are very different stories, comparisons to Dashner’s The Maze Runner are pretty accurate, and I can see this book being just as popular as The Maze Runner.

It’s well-paced with a nice twist at the end. For the most part, it was quite difficult to put down.

My only complaint is with the characters. The only one I halfway connected with is Leon, who runs off into the mountains and is barely around for most of the book. The five teens inside (plus one more who comes later) have very different personalities and backgrounds. They all come from different places and have different problems. Their characters are distinctive; I could easily tell them apart from one another. But I didn’t care about any of them. While Cora fights her captivity right up until the end, the others just accept it blindly. They ostracize Cora and believe she is stealing their food, but I never really bought the reason why they do this. Lucky starts out as a cool, fun kind of guy but suddenly becomes possessive, jealous, and entirely too complacent. Rolf, a bullied genius, starts out sympathetic but ends up a complete tool. Mali reminds me of the creepy well-girl in The Ring. And don’t even get me started on Nok. Seriously, what is wrong with her?

I wasn’t really a fan of Cassian, the alien caretaker and potential love interest for Cora. He seems so stiff and unapproachable. I never believed in Cora’s feelings for him or his feelings for Cora. It was just too weird to think about any kind of relationship between the two of them. I really felt bad for Lucky. He and Cora have a history, and it is clear he has been truly concerned about Cora for a long time prior to their being in The Cage together.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Fast-paced and fun, but I felt disconnected from the characters. A cool premise that will likely be a big hit with teen readers. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a movie at some point.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Buying multiple copies for my library. Despite my dislike for the characters, I have no problem talking this one up with my students. I have no doubt it will be very popular.

READALIKES: Alienated (Landers); These Broken Stars (Starbound) (Kaufman/Spooner); The 5th Wave (Yancey); The Host (Meyer)


  • Overall: 4/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Engrossing: 4/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5


  • Language: medium–4 sh** and a few damns
  • Sexuality: medium–off-screen intercourse, teen pregnancy, kissing, naked medical exam (nothing described besides embarrassment at being naked), mention of brothel/pleasure houses where aliens mate with humans
  • Violence: medium–dead teen girl, discovering human bones,
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild–mention of beer, aliens drink alcohol
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