Told from alternating points of view, The Radius of Us tells the story of Gretchen, an assault victim trying to find her way in the world after being irrevocably changed, and Phoenix, an eighteen-year-old from El Salvador seeing asylum for himself and his younger brother in the United States.
You could see it’s a WEE BIT timely.
I don’t reach much Young Adult fiction, living way way way beyond the age bracket of its intended reader but I know I’m missing out on some lovely stories in the genre. I saw this title on a couple book review blogs and was lucky to receive an digital copy for review. I was a little afraid at the beginning that the book may be a little too young adult for my taste but the characters and their circumstances grew on me fairly quickly after getting over the initial first bump.
This book feels like it’s going to be an important read to help shed some light on the plights that other young people face, a lesson that many privileged teenagers and young adults could always use. We see Gretchen shrinking into herself as she battles with symptoms of PTSD after an assault and witnessing a horrific scene. We see Phoenix, born into poverty and cultural situations most of us will never know, struggling to do the right thing despite his circumstances and sacrificing all he’s known to save his younger brother from a terrible and fated future. Phoenix’s story shines a light on the United States’ faulty immigration system from the outlook of an eighteen-year-old kid who is a man in the eyes of our crappy system and touches upon what young children experience in detention centers.
Phoenix’s presence in her life makes Gretchen want to feel alive again. Gretchen’s presence in his life makes Phoenix even more ashamed of his troubled past. Through a series of trials, a friendship they both desperately need blossoms into a support system that come to depend on.
It’s a sweet story, but not too cheesy or saccharine.
There are many marginalized groups represented in this book, which is always a plus, but I feel like it could’ve been rolled out a little more organically. It felt like the author wanted to make sure to include as many groups as possible and threw them all in a list near the beginning. Lesbian couple, check. Immigrant, check. Black girl, check. Feminist, check. All these things are so important to have represented in groups but it felt like the writer was trying a little too hard at first to make sure we knew they were there.
Overall, I think thought it was a pleasant little read and I was pleasantly surprised to see themes like immigration and asylum/refugee seekers addressed in a YA book in such a way.
The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt is available now.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for a digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.