Jaye has been really looking forward to his birthday. It’s his nineteenth and he can’t wait until after work for his date with his boyfriend, Kris. Jaye also has a job he loves and he’s making a life despite a difficult upbringing. His life isn’t perfect; his mother is an addict and his relationship with Kris isn’t quite where he wants it, but Jaye is determined to figure it all out and succeed.
None of that happens as he is targeted by homophobic strangers and dragged from his own bed in the middle of the night. The men are determined to teach him a lesson in the most violent way possible. Jaye then becomes a victim a second time as he is the one sent to prison. Jaye is determined to stay alive and trades on the only thing he has to make it happen: his body. As he is forced to make impossible choices surrounded by constant violence, Jaye becomes a victim again and again. As his sanity becomes elusive, Jaye knows he has to find the strength to keep enduring and survive despite living in a brutal nightmare.
I gravitate towards dark books and have read a good share of books that are violent and brutal. I had thought recently to spend some more time in the light, but the allure of a new Lynn Kelling book is pointless to resist. Caged Jaye is the prequel to Arctic Absolution, but if you wanted to start here at the beginning of Jaye’s story you could. In Arctic, Jaye tells his story with a fair amount of detail that allowed me to visualize it well. So with that in mind, knowing a portion of the story should have tempered the impact here a little. I will tell you that is a false assumption and this book is intensely violent and shows absolutely no mercy. Kelling does not let up for one single second or for one single word throughout the entire book and she has reached a pinnacle with the execution of this novel.
Jaye is a victim. There is no disputing that. He was assaulted, his life was violently and completely dismantled, and he was then violated further by the system. But Jaye is also a survivor. His goal is to survive prison and he trades on his long hair and feminine, youthful body to make it happen. He is put into an impossible position that is difficult for him to comprehend, but he goes on the offensive to stay alive. That’s where Cash comes into play.
Cash is the leader of one of the prison gangs and sets the rules. He agrees to take on Jaye to protect him, but Cash asks for a lot in return. Jaye really has no idea all that he is getting himself into and how can he as his life becomes a series of public humiliations. Everything has a price and the price has a further price on top of it. While Cash is only seen through Jaye’s eyes, in the smallest of movements, Kelling makes him a little more protective and maybe even a little more human. Cash is certainly a product of his environment and a life that we know nothing about. While he has rules to follow and must uphold deals that have most certainly been made off page, in the subtlest of ways he has been given the ability to become slightly less of a monster for brief and fleeting moments in time.
This story does not allow for any light as it drags Jaye to the depths of despair and it is filled with blood and violence and rape on every page. The book delivers exactly what it states it will and Kelling is a true master in her execution. There has been research done into the prison system and the gangs within and each scene is raw and is designed to shred you time and again. Jaye’s court case was one area of the book that I did have questions about that weren’t addressed, but there were many other areas to focus on. I did involuntarily stop breathing through many of the passages and Kelling’s writing is truly amazing as she rips Jaye’s life apart in the most visceral of ways.
This book is brutal and vicious as Jaye is taken apart and built into someone new. Take all of the warnings into consideration for if there ever was a book deserving all of them this is the one as the writing is exceptional, which allows for the scenes to be highly visual. Jaye is a survivor and readers that dare to enter these pages should also be able to claim survivor status when they come out the other side. If you are absolutely sure you know what you are getting yourself into, then this book is outstanding and a highly recommended read.