“And maybe one day soon, there will be more. But for now this is what we are.”
Title: The Radius of Us
Author: Marie Marquardt
Publication: January 17th 2017 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
Sometimes you just need to sit down and read a contemporary that does something to you; whether it makes you laugh, cry, or daydream – but just something. The Radius of Us does just that with surprising feeling and consideration. It’s not often that a book handles the not so easy to discuss in society with grace, poise, and a beautiful mixture of language and story.
The Radius of Us highlights human nature, human flaws, trust issues, PTSD, and the internal struggle when you feel as if your life is imploding. It tackles racism, accepting your past, and a whole score of other issues. It might seem like a lot at face value, but it actually strengthens the narrative and pushes it past something other than just another Young Adult romance. The Radius of Us could have easily slid into the mold of a normal contemporary romance, as many other books I adore have, however, the narrative’s willingness to acknowledge what most contemporary’s gloss over or water down pushed it over the edge of normal.
The characters, Gretchen and Phoenix, share a particular voice in the book. The story unfolds in alternating POV chapters, and I think that was a wise decision. Having both voices present balanced the tone and the content of the narrative itself. Gretchen has panic attacks after an attack and attempted robbery six months ago. Phoenix is an illegal immigrant on the run with his younger brother after they were targeted by a gang. These are two very different sides of the same coin, and Marquardt teases out a delicate balance that will leave your senses tingling.
The characters themselves, though, are interesting to say the least. For me, the story isn’t really about them even though it is at the same time. The story was about their journey, not their individuality (at least in my head). Both characters were flawed to the point of authenticity. Character flaws can fall on opposite sides of the spectrum, too little or too much, but Gretchen and Phoenix hit the perfect note in the middle. Their individual and joined journeys to overcome and move past their own mental barriers and other tangible obstacles was what made this story more than what it seemed – and it was beautiful.
Overall, The Radius of Us is about breaking through the things that hold you back, even if that barrier is yourself. It is a carefully woven tapestry of love, trust, family, and overcoming fear in whatever form it takes. I highly recommend nestling into some blankets and losing yourself in the details and decisions holding this story together.