Thursday, May 8, 2014

ARC Review: Caged Warrior by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

Caged Warrior
Author: Alan Lawrence Sitomer
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (May 13, 2014)

Description: McCutcheon Daniels' life is full of bone-cracking violence. As a star fighter in the gritty underground Mixed Martial Arts circuit in the poorest section of Detroit, McCutcheon fights under the tutelage of his volatile and violent father, not so much for himself but to survive as protector of his beloved five-year old sister, Gemma. We get to know McCutcheon as he battles opponents who are literally trying to kill him. Mr. Freedman, his science teacher, spots his intellectual potential, befriends him, and encourages him to enter the lottery for a scholarship to an elite charter school so he can obtain a first-class education. He is at first dead-set against the idea, and of course his tyrannical father forbids it. But the school's headmaster, Kaitlyn, a student assigned to be his guide, and Mr. Freedman continue to encourage him to consider it.

His father and the Priests, the local Mafia-like crew that run Detroit's organized crime, have other plans for McCutcheon. For them, he is simply a tool to make them money. And when that cash flow is threatened, his father hits McCutcheon where it hurts most-he hides Gemma and threatens his own son that he'll never see his beloved sister again if he doesn't play by the Priests' rules.

For the first time in his life, McCutcheon reaches out for help. Mr. Freedman turns out to have a very mysterious past and not only helps McCutcheon find his sister but also his mother who had simply disappeared on McCutcheon's 13th birthday. All seems well, but happy endings aren't really something McCutcheon feels he can rely on. And he may be right.

A ferocious novel, Caged Warrior is like a great fight movie, a tour-de-force of relentless conflict, but one that is leavened with rich characters and meaningful and loving relationships.

My Thoughts: CAGED WARRIOR was a harsh novel filled with violence and cruelty but it was also filled with love and hope.

McCutcheon Daniels has been trained by his excuse-for-a-human-being father since he was very small to be a master MMA fighter. He trains and sacrifices because he sees it as the only way that he will ever get out of poverty and Detroit and the only way he will ever be able to take care of his little sister Gemma.

When he gets a chance to get a full ride scholarship to the Radiance Academy, he is tempted but his father and the Priests who run Detroit's organized crime have other plans for their money-making boy - plans that include kidnapping. He has to finally ask for help and then depend on the science teacher who has been encouraging him to remake his life.

This story was gritty and dark but Doc's relationship with his little sister Gemma and the sacrifices he is willing to make for her provided some lightness. Like in real life, everything doesn't go according to plan and lead the way to a happy ending. But the story does end on a hopeful note.

I loved Doc's voice as he tells his story. He is a kid who has had most of the hope beaten out of him and who sees limited options for his future. But he is always trying to do the right thing and be the man his little sister needs.

This was a fascinating story about a place and life that is unfamiliar to my students but that they need to know about. I can't wait to share this book with them.

Favorite Quote:
Way I see it, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Even if I am barely sixteen. Nope, it ain't pretty, but fact is if I don't win, Gem don't eat.

For me, the math doesn't get more simple than that. I mean what kind of older brother lets his five-year-old kid sis go hungry?
I got this eARC from NetGalley for review. You can buy your copy here.


  1. Thank you so much for your review. Before the book comes out you can get a free chapter here:

    Thanks, pass it on!

  2. by the end of the book does it offer a critique or sympathetic look at the life he comes from ~Sheri


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