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 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. Phoeninx 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?
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.
I was very surprised by this book. I requested it on NetGalley because the premise intrigued me, but at the same time I was scared that the Great Themes Mentioned in the Blurb would just fall flat in yet another YA romance with very little substance. Boy, was I wrong! Love is definitely a big theme in the book, but it goes so much further than merely instalove.
Gretchen and Phoenix have both been victims of trauma, even though their situations at first could not seem more different one from the other: Gretchen is the typical good girl from a nice American family; Phoenix is an asylum seeker, labelled illegal, fleeing from a situation so terrible even he has trouble talking about. What saves both of them is indeed love: the one they slowly develop for one another; Phoenix's love for his little brother, Ari; the love of their families and friends for these two survivors; and the love each of them reignites for himself. There are many layers to this story, many ways in which it can be read and appreciated. I'm sure that when I'll read this book again I'll discover so many more new themes that will leave me thinking.
This time, I particularly enjoyed the fact that the author decided to dedicate a book to surviving trauma, to mental health and panic attacks and how disruptive they can be. I loved that fact that she shed a light on a topical issue such as that of immigration and asylum. These are the real issues we are faced with everyday, yet we know remarkably little about. It is all too easy to fear what is "different", what looks strange and new, without ever bothering to understand what lies beneath. It is up to authors like Marie Marquardt to turn on the lights and confront these issues head on.
All of this, coupled with an excellent writing style and lovable, well-developed characters, makes The Radius of Us a very pleasant surprise indeed. Highly recommended.