What a beautiful, heart-warming, gut-wrenching novel… I’d heard so many good things about The Radius of Us, so when I was sent the book to review, I was expecting great things. I hopes were high and I really wanted this book to live up to the hype that surrounded it.
Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground. When a car sped toward them and Gretchen’s attacker told her to run, she recognised a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognise herself.
Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores-Flores knows this because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention. But Phoenix didn’t just trade a perilous barrio in El Salvador for a leafy suburb in Atlanta. He became that person — the one his new neighbours crossed the street to avoid.
Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?
At first, I thought that this book would follow the usual tropes of a YA novel – I’m not bashing YA in any way at all, by the way, I absolutely love the Young Adult genre! These tropes are normally, girl meets boy, the boy is ‘dark and mysterious’, the girl is troubled but gets all better when she meets said boy. Now, The Radius of Us does follow similar lines to these tropes but Marquardt does it in such a unique and amazing way… Our main female character – Gretchen – suffers from PTSD and it scared to step foot outside of her house because of what she’s been through. Our male protagonist – Phoenix – is from El Salvador and runs away from there to America with his little brother, Ami. That’s just a tiny amount of background on the characters.
They are so well written and they have so much depth. A character with a mental illness and an illegal immigrant. But it isn’t these characteristics that create the depth with characters; they’re just so real. Immigration is a big part of today’s socity, refugees fleeing the horrors of their native country; they want to find a better life. I think that Marquardt portrays this horror perfectly and with such a real background story as well. El Salvador is a beautiful place, but gangs run the streets and criminals are always deported to there. Marquardt conveys this beautiful yet dangerous place in such a brilliant way, it really made me feel for Phoenix.
I haven’t suffered from PTSD myself, nor have I ever experienced it third-hand, but I do feel like that Marquardt represented it in a non-problematic way and that the character arc of Gretchen wasn’t forced or rushed. As was Phoenix’s character development.
“Whole Foods. That’s the crazy-ass grocery store where people pay eleven dollars for a piña that’s already cut up. Eleven dollars! The first time Sally took me there, I wandered around, my jaw hanging open. Where do these baycuncadas get all of their money? And why en el nombre de Jesús would they spend it on a cut-up pineapple, when there is a perfectly good whole pineapple sitting right next to it for one-third of the price?”
“For all I know, the dirt we’re about to pour into these raised beds came from El Salvador. Home Depot probably sent people down there to dig it up for free, and now they’re selling it to me in Atlanta for eight dollars a bag. That’s messed up.”
– Marie Marquardt, The Radius of Us
This book is about love, acceptance, fear, hope, and learning that it’s ok to lean on those around you when you feel like you’re about to fall. We learn about the horrors of the immigration system with the U.S (which also applies to the U.K as well!), we learn about the horrible way refugees are treated by the government and society, and we learn that sometimes, we just have to trust that one person to make ourselves feel better.
I also loved how Marquardt used the cultural appropriation to convey Phoenix’s world. He spoke in Spanish, which meant that I had to use Google translator – but it also meant that I got to learn a few Spanish phrases which was great! We are also introduced to Spanish foods and I am now dying to try a pupusa. I feel like I need them in my life, so it looks like I’m going to be going on a little search to see if anywhere by me sells them!
The Radius of Us is such an important book to read. It tackles so many issues that are prominent in modern-day society, and I know that I’ve mainly talked about how the representation of immigration was fantastic throughout the book, but it also tackles mental illness which is also very important, and is an issue that I’m noticing is continuing to be shown in Young Adult novels.
As aforementioned, this book is very important to read and I urge everyone to go online or go to their local bookstore and pick up this book. I promise that you won’t be disappointed!
Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review