The first time Gretchen sees Phoenix, she has a panic attack. She doesn't mean to hurt his feelings. It's just that he looks a lot like someone she's seen before; someone who completely changed her life forever. Phoenix doesn't take it too personally. Things have been pretty hard for him and now he's living with his foster Moms in a super fancy neighborhood wearing other people's hand-me-down clothes. Gretchen must be just one more person who thinks he doesn't belong there. But then she finds him to apologize for running away, and he can't believe that such a beautiful girl who lives in such a nice place could have been through so much. There's no way he can share how much he has been through though. He likes feeling like he can help & support her, and if she knew his secret, she'd never speak to him again.
Why It's Worth Reading:
A modern, YA romance with unique, surprising elements & real-world relevance - it's a no fail choice! On paper, I've read a million stories like this. There are two kids from extremely different backgrounds who meet in unexpected circumstances and fall in love. But this one is refreshingly different in its details. I was fascinated by Phoenix's story and while I have read numerous books involving U.S. immigrants, I've never read such a detailed story about asylum seekers and the plight they face. It's clear that Marquardt has first-hand knowledge of this world to be able to draw such a nuanced character. I really appreciated the thoughtful handling of Gretchen's character as well. Her description of what a panic attack feels like was as eye-opening for me as it was for Phoenix, and I was impressed with way that art therapy and its techniques was woven into the story. As I read more, I'm always excited by new concepts, but what I am realizing as I write this review is that a story doesn't have to be a brand new concept if the characters are interesting and the writing is worthy. The Radius of Us checks both boxes.
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
Awards/Accolades: 1 starred review already and it it doesn't officially release until Tuesday
Source: Advanced Reader's Copy (Full disclosure: I received a free galley in exchange for my honest opinion.)
Do We Own a Copy?: Two on order.