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The Radius of Us: A Novel

Review

The Radius of Us: A Novel

Marie Marquardt resides in Decatur, Georgia and is a college professor at Emory University. Her debut novel, DREAM THINGS TRUE, released in 2015. THE RADIUS OF US is her second novel featring immigration in the southern United States, and she is an immigration advocate and co-chair of the Georgia nonprofit El Refugio.

THE RADIUS OF US is the story of two teenagers, Phoenix and Gretchen, whose lives connect in the most surprising ways. Phoenix, an asylum-seeker and survivor from El Salvador, is taken in by a wealthy couple in Atlanta while his little brother is left in a detention facility in Texas. Meanwhile, Gretchen connects with Phoenix because they are both deeply changed by the trauma they have suffered being survivors of gang violence. This novel explores the messiness that is the US immigration system, and the human voices that are so significantly affected by it.

"This novel is bound to resonate with teens who have had little connection to real stories of immigration before reading THE RADIUS OF US, as well as those who are extremely passionate about immigration already."

When I found out about THE RADIUS OF US, I was very excited to read it because I read and reviewed Marie’s novel DREAM THINGS TRUE for Teenreads in 2015 and met Marie at the Decatur Book Festival in 2015. I am impressed by how much Marie’s writing has grown since her debut, and I will definitely continue to read her books. She offers such an excellent perspective on immigration because she has actually worked with immigrants and uses bits of their stories to write her novel. One of the most interesting parts of THE RADIUS OF US is that it takes place relatively close to where I live, close enough that I recognize the places the characters visit in the story. I think it is critical that all areas and backgrounds are represented in young adult literature, and I always appreciate books written by authors from Atlanta --- not to mention when the setting of the book is Atlanta.

What I appreciate greatly about THE RADIUS OF US is its ability to increase empathy in teens. It is such an important story because it is one that is similar to that of so many real people. Phoenix’s story is inspiring and allows the reader to humanize the stories of immigrants, which I believe is not done enough today. Having Gretchen as the main character was one of the best decisions that Marie could have made when writing. Gretchen sees the world through the lens of an American teen, and it allows readers to connect with her. She has an interesting connection to gangs because of her trauma, but she doesn’t put the pieces together until she meets Phoenix.

At its core, THE RADIUS OF US is a love story. Despite Phoenix and Gretchen coming from vastly different backgrounds, they still manage to have so much chemistry. Both are working through their own issues, and they can help each other through that. Another vital component of THE RADIUS OF US is family. Gretchen has her parents who, although they mean well, do not necessarily know what is best for her. Gretchen can find family in her friends and Phoenix. Phoenix does not have anyone except for his brother, but he is such a kind person that everyone he meets wants to help him. Phoenix is able to find his family in complete strangers, and it makes for really compelling relationships in this story.

Every teen and every person should read THE RADIUS OF US. With the politically-charged society that we live in, sometimes you just have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This novel is bound to resonate with teens who have had little connection to real stories of immigration before reading THE RADIUS OF US, as well as those who are extremely passionate about immigration already.

Reviewed by Grace P., Teen Board Member on January 17, 2017

The Radius of Us: A Novel
by Marie Marquardt

  • Publication Date: January 17, 2017
  • Genres: Family, Romance, Young Adult 14+
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 1250096898
  • ISBN-13: 9781250096890