My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thank you, St. Martin’s Press, for sending me an ARC of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward. —Steve Maraboli
The Radius of Us is one of the most meaningful and insightful books I’ve read this year. Unlike many YA contemporary novels, this book educates its readers about PTSD, the politics of immigration, as well as the lingering legacy of racism in American society. Essentially, The Radius of Us is anything but a typical love story.
Gretchen and Phoenix were very flawed yet authentic characters, in that they had serious personal issues to overcome. Although they had different problems, both of them struggled to let go of their traumatic experiences. Thankfully, they had loving parents and friends to help them in their respective journeys. Of course, these two lovebirds also had each other.
I do not intend to underestimate the gravity of Gretchen’s situation, but I was more invested in Phoenix’s character arc. As an “illegal” refugee from El Salvador, Phoenix constantly suffered under the threat of deportation. He also had to worry about his younger brother Ali, who was left behind in a juvenile detention center while their petition for asylum was being settled. In totality, Phoenix’s problems were more significant to me, and I was always excited to know if he would be given a happy ending.
Phoenix wasn’t the only colored/diverse character in the novel. His guardians, Amanda and Sally, were a queer couple. Also, Bree, Gretchen’s bff, was an African American. In retrospect, each of these characters were not ashamed of their identity. With that in mind, The Radius of Us is the perfect book for readers who love stories with much diversity.
I would have given this book 5 stars if Phoenix and Gretchen did not fall in love so quickly. I am sorry to say that their relationship is another example of instalove in YA literature. Moreover, Gretchen started to have feelings for Phoenix even though she already had a loyal boyfriend. In other words, I did not like how this book glossed over the consequences of cheating, as “valid” as it might be.
To sum up my thoughts and feels, I enjoyed the Radius of Us because of its relevant story and well-developed characters. I particularly appreciated how the author effectively conveyed her sympathy and support for the victims of gang violence. Setting aside my issues with the romance, this book is definitely worth your time.
*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)