An ARC has been kindly provided by St Martin’s Press, via, in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 4,5  “you made me care” stars!
Publication Date: January 17th, 2017
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Point of View: Alternate
Recommended Age: 12+
Pacing: Steady
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Romance, Refugee crisis

About the novel:

Marie Marquardt’s debut novel for young adults, Dream Things True, resonated with readers of all ages for its engrossing characters and compelling storyline. At the same time, the novel presented an unwavering critical view of the stigmas and difficulties plaguing undocumented youth in U.S. schools. It’s a plight Marquardt knows intimately and a cause she’s passionate about, as for the last two decades she has dedicated herself to assisting Latin American immigrant families in the South.

Now, St. Martin’s Press will release her second YA novel, a love story about two star-crossed teenagers who overcome their debilitating fears together: THE RADIUS OF US (publication date: January 17, 2017).  Inspired by her research, friendship, and advocacy with Latin American teenagers fleeing gang violence and seeking asylum in the United States, the novel takes an unflinching look at the extreme hardships these teens face by exploring the emotional landscape of their experiences.


This story is like an onion, it has many layers.

You can choose to see it as just a very cute romance between two touching main characters coming from different worlds: the poor migrant and the cute middle class white girl. Gretchen and Phoenix were perfectly assorted. Phoenix helped Gretchen to live fully and fearlessly again. He was solid, reliable. Gretchen made Phoenix feel welcome and worthy, she fought for him.

You can also focus on the journey Gretchen had to follow to feel whole and safe again. How she was riddled with panic attacks after THE EVENT, could not go to school anymore, could not drive or go outside without angst. It took a foreign boy’s understanding to make her live again. His presence was reassuring. Gretchen decided to help him build a garden, find some pupusas, play tourist in Atlanta. She forgot her fears to support Phoenix and he was her safe heaven.

Or you can choose to think about Phoenix’s fight to protect his little brother Ari.

I had never heard of Marie Marquardt before reading this book. How would she write? Would I like the story? Would I regret asking St Martin’s Press for this book? …

Now I can honestly say that I loved this book as it broached a very sensitive and contemporary topic with great care and respect. Choosing to portray a young migrant fighting to protect his young brother the author morphed impersonal statistics into individual heartbreaking cases.

This is the story of Phoenix 18 years old migrant from El Salvador. He fled his country with his little brother Ari to escape from the dangerous gangs ruling their little town. Orphaned, their travelled for months on foot or hanging from a train to reach the US border where they’ve been arrested and sent to detention camp. They witnessed so much violence on their trip that Ari isn’t speaking anymore. Now Phoenix is living with two old ladies waiting to know without much hope if he could stay in the US. Phoenix did some bad things in El Salvador under the gang’s pressure. They threatened his family and he did not really have a choice. Now he lives in guilt for what he’s done and does not think he deserves the kindness people can show, especially Gretchen’s .

This book may be YA romance with young main characters but reading it was thought provoking.

We take so many things for granted that we don’t even see we’re very lucky, spoiled even. We pay a fortune to have cut fruits at the grocery store while whole fruits cost just a penny. Phoenix was grateful just to be alive and in a safe surrounding without bullets flying or gang members taking your dearest possession. He was grateful for everything he’s been given, second hand clothes, a bed, a roof upon his head. His American dream was not to become rich or successful. He just wanted to have a little house, to walk freely and fearlessly in the countryside and maybe have a beer with a friend.  This made me realize I was lucky.

Reading about Phoenix and Ari’s life in El Salvador, about their traumatizing journey and about their hope to be safe, to live made me truly see these migrant’s utter despair. Most don’t leave their country on a whim but out of sheer necessity. When they reach a border, they’re contained in camps and begin the long wait to see if their hope will come true or be crushed again. To witness Phoenix and Ari having to prove they’re worthy was heartbreaking. They had to be cleaned and judged and deemed worthy. How many succeed? How many are rebuked? What do they become once they’ve been sent back? Phoenix knew the statistics and how very few got permission to stay in the US.

The refugees crisis is a complex topic dividing peoples across the world, some seeing migrant as a threat to their work, their safety while other wish to help these people so desperate they left everything and everyone behind in the hope of a better, safer future. Marie Marquardt made me think about all these people. I had to face my prejudice and live Phoenix’s life. She made me see there are good and bad people everywhere refugees or native. This may sound cliché but it’s true nonetheless and is so important when we are confronted with the fear of the other, the foreigner.

Now I know that I’ll never listen to/watch immigration problem in the same way. You won your bet Mrs Marquardt, you made me care and THINK.

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