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The Radius of Us: A Novel Hardcover – January 17, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Gretchen Asher's life has not been the same since she was mugged in a parking lot one night. The traumatic incident propelled her into a state of panic, and she is unable to go to school, socialize, or interact deeply with her boyfriend, Adam. Months later, while babysitting her niece and nephew in a neighborhood park, Gretchen spots a boy who looks nearly identical to her attacker. She is thrust back into the heart of fear, unaware that the boy, Phoenix, is in the midst of his own struggles. An 18-year-old immigrant from El Salvador, he has just spent four months escorting his brother to the United States to flee gang violence and is in danger of being deported. When circumstances cause Gretchen and Phoenix to continue meeting, they form an unexpected bond. While facing court trials, identity issues, and racial stereotyping, the teens bolster each other's courage. With the looming possibility of their permanent separation, the two must decide what is most important to them and what sacrifices are worth making. Tackling the issues of gang violence, immigration, mental health, and cultural bias, this is a compelling story that delivers profound messages through engaging, accessible prose. Both a page-turning romance and a comprehensive view of a young immigrant's experience, this novel is sure to encourage empathy and perspective among high school students. VERDICT A must-have for all YA collections.—Karin Greenberg, Queens College, NY
"...this is a compelling story that delivers profound messages through engaging, accessible prose. Both a page-turning romance and a comprehensive view of a young immigrant's experience, this novel is sure to encourage empathy and perspective... VERDICT A must-have for all YA collections." -School Library Journal (Starred Review)
"[An] eye-opening story." -Kirkus Review
"For anyone who feels trapped or constrained by borders or barriers, Marie Marquardt's The Radius of Us is a bold, brilliant, and decidedly timely novel that reminds us that love can still transcend it all." -Brendan Kiely, New York Times Bestselling author of All American Boys and The Last True Love Story
"The Radius of Us takes the worlds-colliding poignancy and rich characterization of Eleanor & Park and tackles the human workings of immigration. A powerful, empathetic, achingly beautiful and real story of yearning for a better life and the love that comes with it." -Jeff Zentner, author of The Serpent King
"Marie Marquardt's The Radius of Us is a straightforward love-story with underpinnings that are anything but. This beautiful novel doesn't sugar-coat the real horrors that the world can so carelessly and randomly inflict, and at the same time never wavers in the assurance that love is bigger than hate, that compassionate connection is not just possible, but essential, and that while we may be marked by the past--the past does not define us. We save each other, person by person, and slowly the world begins to brighten. A novel that shines in every sense of the word." -Alison Umminger, author of American Girls
"Dream Things True is a satisfying and rich debut novel about love and the importance of following dreams." -Américas Award Committee on Dream Things True
Top customer reviews
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ARC received from author; forever copy purchased for myself, since I know I'll be revisiting this one!
I will pass it on to my teenage son for sure.
An ARC has been kindly provided by St Martin's Press, via NetGalley.com, in exchange for an honest review.
This story is like an onion, it has many layers.
You can choose to see it as just a very cute romance between two touching main characters coming from different worlds: the poor migrant and the cute middle class white girl. Gretchen and Phoenix were perfectly assorted. Phoenix helped Gretchen to live fully and fearlessly again. He was solid, reliable. Gretchen made Phoenix feel welcome and worthy, she fought for him.
You can also focus on the journey Gretchen had to follow to feel whole and safe again. How she was riddled with panic attacks after THE EVENT, could not go to school anymore, could not drive or go outside without angst. It took a foreign boy’s understanding to make her live again. His presence was reassuring. Gretchen decided to help him build a garden, find some pupusas, play tourist in Atlanta. She forgot her fears to support Phoenix and he was her safe heaven.
Or you can choose to think about Phoenix’s fight to protect his little brother Ari.
I had never heard of Marie Marquardt before reading this book. How would she write? Would I like the story? Would I regret asking St Martin’s Press for this book? …
Now I can honestly say that I loved this book as it broached a very sensitive and contemporary topic with great care and respect. Choosing to portray a young migrant fighting to protect his young brother the author morphed impersonal statistics into individual heartbreaking cases.
This is the story of Phoenix 18 years old migrant from El Salvador. He fled his country with his little brother Ari to escape from the dangerous gangs ruling their little town. Orphaned, their travelled for months on foot or hanging from a train to reach the US border where they’ve been arrested and sent to detention camp. They witnessed so much violence on their trip that Ari isn’t speaking anymore. Now Phoenix is living with two old ladies waiting to know without much hope if he could stay in the US. Phoenix did some bad things in El Salvador under the gang’s pressure. They threatened his family and he did not really have a choice. Now he lives in guilt for what he’s done and does not think he deserves the kindness people can show, especially Gretchen’s .
This book may be YA romance with young main characters but reading it was thought provoking.
We take so many things for granted that we don’t even see we’re very lucky, spoiled even. We pay a fortune to have cut fruits at the grocery store while whole fruits cost just a penny. Phoenix was grateful just to be alive and in a safe surrounding without bullets flying or gang members taking your dearest possession. He was grateful for everything he’s been given, second hand clothes, a bed, a roof upon his head. His American dream was not to become rich or successful. He just wanted to have a little house, to walk freely and fearlessly in the countryside and maybe have a beer with a friend. This made me realize I was lucky.
Reading about Phoenix and Ari’s life in El Salvador, about their traumatizing journey and about their hope to be safe, to live made me truly see these migrant’s utter despair. Most don’t leave their country on a whim but out of sheer necessity. When they reach a border, they’re contained in camps and begin the long wait to see if their hope will come true or be crushed again. To witness Phoenix and Ari having to prove they’re worthy was heartbreaking. They had to be cleaned and judged and deemed worthy. How many succeed? How many are rebuked? What do they become once they’ve been sent back? Phoenix knew the statistics and how very few got permission to stay in the US.
The refugees crisis is a complex topic dividing peoples across the world, some seeing migrant as a threat to their work, their safety while other wish to help these people so desperate they left everything and everyone behind in the hope of a better, safer future. Marie Marquardt made me think about all these people. I had to face my prejudice and live Phoenix’s life. She made me see there are good and bad people everywhere refugees or native. This may sound cliché but it’s true nonetheless and is so important when we are confronted with the fear of the other, the foreigner.
Now I know that I'll never listen to/watch immigration problem in the same way. You won your bet Mrs Marquardt, you made me care and THINK.
The Radius of Us deals with so many current issues-gang violence, asylum seekers, immigration, PTSD, racial issues, and how the system treats people from specific countries. There’s a mix of court proceedings that give you a broad, but poignant picture of detention centers, how people who show up at the border are treated, the agony and fear when they separate adults from their little ones, the role of parole officers, and how much money it costs to fight for your safety. There’s also a little about the groups that advocate for asylum seekers from countries that are considered high risk. Sometimes we live our lives in a bubble and we become so wrapped up that we forget about what others go through, how they have to fight for the right to live peacefully, safely. This reality hits and it hits hard.
Gang violence plays a key role in this story. It’s terrifying and brutal. It’s not especially graphic. There are short, abrupt, and blunt scenes that suggest enough without the gore and others that will leave you feeling shaken and sickened. How gangs work, their conditioning processes, what membership means, and what you must suffer to get out are here in brief, but it’s totally enough to understand without getting too specific. From El Salvador to Guatemala to Mexico, each system is different and come with threats.
This book is fantastically diverse in the best way. It calls the characters and the reader out on their perceptions and prejudices. It many ways, it crushes stereotypes.
Love is a major theme. What love can inspire, how it can keep you holding on when everything falls apart and dares you to hope; it gives you something to live for, just knowing other people want you around is enough to move mountains. There are all forms of love in this story: love between siblings, between relatives, strangers, friends. So much love it leaves you breathless and keyed up. Happy.
Secondary characters. Many times they fade out or fall flat but these characters, you will love them in their own right. They’re memorable, unique, full of life, laughter, heart, and compassion. I loved Bo and Barbie. I mean a tattooed biker couple helping ex-cons remove tattoos from their past. Just wow. They’re gruff and funny and just wonderful characters. So are Phoenix’s guardians. An elderly lesbian couple so in love and with so much to give to a complete stranger. Seriously this story will restore your faith in humanity.
PTSD comes in all shapes and sizes. Trauma can cause all sorts of debilitating side effects and take over the victim’s life. Ari and Gretchen both suffer different forms. The portrayal of each is so raw, so real, you feel every ounce of panic, fear, and memory.
Ari and Phoenix. I didn’t realize it, but I’ve been dreaming of a story with a strong sibling bond. This story delivers. Phoenix risks everything, literally his life several times for his brother’s safety, to protect him from gang recruitment and all the pain he went through as a kid forced to join. I mean months through Central America in horrific conditions. Death, violence, and evil all around them. Phoenix tried to protect his brother the best he could, nothing mattered but getting him out, even if Phoenix died in the process. That kind of love, that’s something unbreakable. This alone will make you fall for Phoenix. He’s selfless, compassionate, and loves fiercely. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do. The scenes of Ari and Phoenix together are bittersweet. There are laughs, but there are also tears, seeing Ari the way he is, so traumatized he’s unable to speak. I mean it kills him. I think my heart broke a hundred times in as many pages.
Gretchen’s story also has to do with gang violence. Her whole life was altered by one moment. Everything she used to be was gone, obliterated by an act of violence that made her scared, that left her with memories that crushed her and caused her to fold in on herself and sacrifice a normal life. And yet, Gretchen offers comfort and kindness to everyone she meets. She gives so much of herself without realizing it. What she does for Phoenix with barely a thought-she’s a genuinely good person.
Phoenix’s story. I’m struggling to find the words for that kind of hardship and sadness. Sometimes there are only two choices and both are bad. Sometimes your surroundings shape your future and you have no choice but to become something dark to save the light in your life-in this case Ari and his grandmother. Phoenix’s past haunts him. He feels guilty. Like he’s a terrible person despite all the good. He has no kindness for himself, only regret and it’s like being suckerpunched in the heart.
Gretchen and Phoenix. While I wasn’t exactly happy about how and why they met-because wow that is not okay but it is addressed in the story-they’re perfect for each other. They soothe and comfort, they complete one another. They’re in sync. Their radius is the same. There’s chemistry and resistance and such heated tension. You might want to throw the book waiting for them to happen.
I honestly could go on forever about the merits and awesomeness that is The Radius of Us but this is probably the longest review I’ve ever written. Just do yourself a favor. Read this. Give it as a gift. It’s worth every minute.
Most recent customer reviews
Marie Marquardt has written a fine novel and a timely one—which deals, in part, with the daunting realities of those fleeing violence,...Read more
If I was pressed to summarize this book, I would pick the following part of the book blurb:
"Told in alternating first person points of...Read more