Book Review: The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt

cover95060-mediumTitle: The Radius of Us
Author: Marie Marquardt
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub Date: January 17, 2017
Format: Kindle eBook
Pages: 304
Source: NetGalley
Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads || Buy on Amazon

Synopsis from Goodreads:

What happens when you fall in love with someone everyone seems determined to fear?

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 recognized a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognize 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 neighbors 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?

Told in alternating first person points of view, The Radius of Us is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over. Most importantly, Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us shows how people struggling to overcome trauma can find healing in love.

My review:

I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

“I have this strange feeling that we’re both on our way to someplace better.”

A lot can happen in 90 seconds, and even more can happen in 304 pages. The synopsis said it best: This book is about victims becoming survivors. It’s about violence, trauma, life, love, and safety. It’s about family and home. And it was all written sincerely and beautifully.

This book manages to tackle so much in such a short amount of time. Yes, there is romance… but it wasn’t love at first sight. It was panic at first sight. There was vulnerability and distrust. Excitement and fear. And somewhere along the way, this became understanding and healing. It might also be wise to include a trigger warning for trauma, physical assault, and  gang violence. It’s all quite heavy in regard to subject matter, but you can also expect a story filled with hope and perseverance.

I really appreciated reading about Gretchen’s progress from victim to survivor. After her assault, she knows she will never be the same again but she’s starting to realize that maybe that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. People can adapt. They can be hurt, but they can also thrive and survive and grow. And she really grows into herself throughout this novel. The development is fantastic.

And then we have Phoenix. His story breaks my heart. Him and Ari are also survivors of some unpleasant circumstances. His home is no longer a home. All he wants is to keep his brother safe, but the threat of deportation (and ultimately, death) is wearing him down. No one ever said it would be easy, but he’s certainly not giving up on his brother. It’s only a matter of whether he’s willing to fight for himself, too.

Needless to say, this book has some great representation. I was really looking forward to reading it when the synopsis hinted at immigration struggles. We need more stories like this. There are so many people like Ari and Phoenix, who had no choice but to leave the only place they’ve ever known, simply because they know they would not survive if they stayed. People like my parents. Their particular struggles just really struck a chord in me.

After reading the author’s biography, I can tell that she has some firsthand experience with the immigration process, and that she is passionate about spreading awareness and helping others who fight for their freedom every day. I really respect her for that, and I love even more that she wrote this book because of it.

In any case, those are my two cents. This was a stellar read.

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