ARC Review: The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt


Release Date: Jan 17, 2017


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 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.


5/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & St. Martin’s Griffin

Do you ever so thoroughly enjoy yourself that you get lost, completely consumed in the moment, and forget everything else in the world? In that period of time, nothing else matters, it’s just you and that utter bliss that is safety, warmth, and contentment. This is that feeling in book form. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a joyful reading experience. This story is beautiful and heartbreaking and reaches into the depths of your soul and asks you to open your eyes, to truly see people past their surface value. There is so much, so many moments that will leave you feeling so full of love and like you can float away on a cloud. At the same time, there’s this crushing sense of dark reality and despair. What Phoenix and Ari went through…it’s enough to break anyone and yet, it’s a reality for so many people in this world. It’s not okay. This will be an experience for some readers, one of learning and opening up to the world around you. Sometimes there is so much bad in the world that it’s easy to forget about the good, but always, even when the odds are slim, there is hope. 

The Radius of Us deals with so many current issues-gang violence, asylum seekers, immigration, PTSD, racial issues, and how the system treats people from specific countries. There’s a mix of court proceedings that give you a broad, but poignant picture of detention centers, how people who show up at the border are treated, the agony and fear when they separate adults from their little ones, the role of parole officers, and how much money it costs to fight for your safety. There’s also a little about the groups that advocate for asylum seekers from countries that are considered high risk. Sometimes we live our lives in a bubble and we become so wrapped up that we forget about what others go through, how they have to fight for the right to live peacefully, safely. This reality hits and it hits hard. 

Gang violence plays a key role in this story. It’s terrifying and brutal. It’s not especially graphic. There are short, abrupt, and blunt scenes that suggest enough without the gore and others that will leave you feeling shaken and sickened. How gangs work, their conditioning processes, what membership means, and what you must suffer to get out are here in brief, but it’s totally enough to understand without getting too specific. From El Salvador to Guatemala to Mexico, each system is different and come with threats.

This book is fantastically diverse in the best way. It calls the characters and the reader out on their perceptions and prejudices. It many ways, it crushes stereotypes. 

Love is a major theme. What love can inspire, how it can keep you holding on when everything falls apart and dares you to hope; it gives you something to live for, just knowing other people want you around is enough to move mountains. There are all forms of love in this story: love between siblings, between relatives, strangers, friends. So much love it leaves you breathless and keyed up. Happy.

Secondary characters. Many times they fade out or fall flat but these characters, you will love them in their own right. They’re memorable, unique, full of life, laughter, heart, and compassion. I loved Bo and Barbie. I mean a tattooed biker couple helping ex-cons remove tattoos from their past. Just wow. They’re gruff and funny and just wonderful characters. So are Phoenix’s guardians. An elderly lesbian couple so in love and with so much to give to a complete stranger. Seriously this story will restore your faith in humanity. 

PTSD comes in all shapes and sizes. Trauma can cause all sorts of debilitating side effects and take over the victim’s life. Ari and Gretchen both suffer different forms. The portrayal of each is so raw, so real, you feel every ounce of panic, fear, and memory.

Ari and Phoenix. I didn’t realize it, but I’ve been dreaming of a story with a strong sibling bond. This story delivers. Phoenix risks everything, literally his life several times for his brother’s safety, to protect him from gang recruitment and all the pain he went through as a kid forced to join. I mean months through Central America in horrific conditions. Death, violence, and evil all around them. Phoenix tried to protect his brother the best he could, nothing mattered but getting him out, even if Phoenix died in the process. That kind of love, that’s something unbreakable. This alone will make you fall for Phoenix. He’s selfless, compassionate, and loves fiercely. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do. The scenes of Ari and Phoenix together are bittersweet. There are laughs, but there are also tears, seeing Ari the way he is, so traumatized he’s unable to speak. I mean it kills him. I think my heart broke a hundred times in as many pages. 

Gretchen’s story also has to do with gang violence. Her whole life was altered by one moment. Everything she used to be was gone, obliterated by an act of violence that made her scared, that left her with memories that crushed her and caused her to fold in on herself and sacrifice a normal life. And yet, Gretchen offers comfort and kindness to everyone she meets. She gives so much of herself without realizing it. What she does for Phoenix with barely a thought-she’s a genuinely good person. 

Phoenix’s story. I’m struggling to find the words for that kind of hardship and sadness. Sometimes there are only two choices and both are bad. Sometimes your surroundings shape your future and you have no choice but to become something dark to save the light in your life-in this case Ari and his grandmother. Phoenix’s past haunts him. He feels guilty. Like he’s a terrible person despite all the good. He has no kindness for himself, only regret and it’s like being suckerpunched in the heart. 

Gretchen and Phoenix. While I wasn’t exactly happy about how and why they met-because wow that is not okay but it is addressed in the story-they’re perfect for each other. They soothe and comfort, they complete one another. They’re in sync. Their radius is the same. There’s chemistry and resistance and such heated tension. You might want to throw the book waiting for them to happen. 

I honestly could go on forever about the merits and awesomeness that is The Radius of Us but this is probably the longest review I’ve ever written. Just do yourself a favor. Read this. Give it as a gift. It’s worth every minute. 


Marie Marquardt is an author of young adult novels, a college professor, and an immigration advocate. Her debut novel, Dream Things True (St. Martin’s Press), was a 2015 YA BEA Buzz Panel choice praised in Kirkus as a “worthy examination of undocumented immigration in the American South through the lens of young love.” Her second novel, THE RADIUS OF US, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January 2017. Uplifting and hopeful, THE RADIUS OF US reflects the experience of Latin American teenagers fleeing gang violence and seeking asylum in the United States and the possibilities for change. It’s an issue that Marie Marquardt cares about profoundly, and she believes that connecting to it emotionally it can be a powerful antidote to the hate, fear, and misunderstanding that plagues our society.

“When I speak to groups about immigration and the need for immigration reform, I can offer clear, rational explanations and data on why our immigration system needs to be repaired,” Marquardt says. “But they only begin to care when they meet and get to know someone who is stuck in between. Writing a fictional (but very real) story brings readers into intimate, personal engagement with a messy, complicated, political situation.”

Dr. Marquardt is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and has been an advocate for social justice for Latin American immigrants in the South for two decades. She has published many articles and co-authored two non-fiction books on the issues involved and has been interviewed on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and BBC America, among many other media outlets. She is also the co-chair of El Refugio, a Georgia non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families.

Marie Marquardt is a proud member of the We Need Diverse Books team and lives in a busy household in Decatur, Georgia with her spouse, four children, a dog and a bearded dragon.

For more information, visit:

Follow her on Twitter: @MarieFMarquardt


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ARC Review Blitz: Breakdown-Amanda Lance


Breakdown (Crash Into Me, #1) by Amanda Lance


October 6-10 2014

***I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review and participation in this blog tour.

“‘Remember how you said I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for you to call me?’ I smiled faintly, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Well, I just want you to know that I’d do a lot more than that for you. If you needed me to I’d die holding my breath for you.’ Despite the overwhelming flattery I swallowed hard and shook my head. ‘You can’t do that, stupid. Your body would automatically start breathing again once you passed out.’ He laughed ‘I know that. What I mean is-I’d grow old, get all shriveled up and die. I’d stop racing, driving and even start taking the bus before I ever gave up on you, Jumper.'”

cooltext1712921505 copyCharlotte Ferro is about to jump.

Yet nothing ruins a perfectly good suicide attempt worse than a handsome do-gooder. After William O’Reilly convinces her to take one last ride with him, Charlotte finds herself forgetting about her own problems and enjoying a world of which she never dreamed.

Now addicted to the rush of fast cars and cool criminals, Charlotte finds herself leaning less towards the ledge and more toward the arms of her savior. But with reasons of his own for keeping Charlotte safe from herself, William is reluctant to involve her in his criminal undertakings. Will his career choice keep them apart? Will Charlotte’s painful past?

cooltext1719331023 copy4/5 Stars


  • There are many profound, uplifting, and emotionally raw elements to this amazing story. The messages of hope and faith were some of the strongest. The shift from the reckless and melancholy abandon in the beginning to the happiness towards the end really showcased how it only takes one act of kindness, a little bit of caring and letting someone knew that they’re valuable, that they’re worth it to change everything. In an instant, Charlotte’s sadness diminished with the playful words of s stranger and in less than an hour, she began to see that despite her crappy life, her abuse, and her feelings of hopelessness, that there is light and laughter buried beneath all the bad. 
  • Charlotte’s solitude is an aching, all-consuming entity, leaching the life out of her. Her obsession with ways to die, her calculated planning and methodology for her suicide conflicts with her thoughts. As much as Charlotte wants to end her pain, she is plagued by thoughts of others because she is a good person. Even when deciding the time to off herself, she needed to make sure it was when her parents would find out together, that she landed in a spot so as not to injure anyone in oncoming traffic, and even parked her car away to not inconvenience the police. Everything is timed and plotted and while she has all of these thoughts on how to make the situation better for others, she has so little value for herself that it never even occurs to her that her death would cripple her parents emotionally or that it would affect anyone else. The depression is like a knife to the chest and incredibly well written. Every ounce of agony and stagnancy is reflected in Charlotte’s thoughts, her mannerisms, and how she views the world. It’s heartbreaking to read and though as the reader, we don’t know for sure what put her in this state, her raggedly emotional downward spiral is real enough not to question the severity of her suffering.
  • Charlotte is made of sarcasm and creativity. Her quips are snarky and fun, always inventive, and the way she mocks and toys with William is hilarious. For someone as introspective and depressed as Charlotte, she’s spunky, confident, and sassy when comfortable and she lets her guard down. Charlotte gets lost in her baking, she loves experimenting with recipes and finds true joy in cooking. It’s through the combination of baking and William that she finds her voice and figures out what she wants to do with her life. It’s marvelous seeing how much Charlotte grows and is reborn in such a short time. The adrenaline and self-destructiveness combine into an explosive source of crazy for Charlotte. The scene with the fire was a little much and hinted at how mentally unstable Charlotte was at the time. Occasionally, Charlotte is really insecure, especially around men. All she wants is for people to like her, to notice and appreciate her and doesn’t know how to behave in a crowd.
  • William is delightfully humorous and genuine. He cares about people and is just a pure, great guy. He has a past that’s a little seedy and maybe a lot illegal but he’s kind-hearted and protective. He looks out for his friends and tells it like it is. William doesn’t BS or beat around the bush, he brings up tough subjects and asks questions that might be difficult but need to be put out there. He’s flirty, compassionate and the way he teases Charlotte (Jumper) will make your heart beat a little faster. The text messages were adorable and the way he makes Charlotte light up inside is enough to make any red blooded girl fall, hard. 
  • Chemistry. Oodles of it. It’s not the hot, hyper-sexualized angst but a slow burning passion.
  • The secondary characters are quirky, eclectic balls of energy. Eggs, Cosmo, and Frenchie are unique and surprisingly down to earth considering their professions as drag racers and strippers. Frenchie is such a svelte, saucy little lady. Between her pink hair and animal print corsets, she brings Charlotte out of her shell and helps her recognize just how sexy she is.
  • The glimpse into the culture of the drag racing world and chop shops were fascinating. Seeing the social relationships, how the clothing and cliques reflected positions in the overall rankings, the handicaps for poorly maintained cars, and the planning to get away with these illegal races was awesome. 


  • There were a few typos and tense issues. 
  • I was torn between appreciating the vagueness of what actually put Charlotte on the path to suicide and what actually happened to William’s sister and loathing the lack of details. The situations, as horrible and tragic in both cases as they are, were merely mentioned one or two times with no real exploration into the emotional impact. Discussing these traumas would have strengthened the emotional connection between the reader and characters.
  • Sometimes just a line can inspire fury or irk you enough to reevaluate views on a particular character. How Charlotte views men is to be expected. Seeing them as betrayers, vile, violent and despicable creatures is okay after what she’s been through and it’s understandable how hard it is for her to trust but her expectations sexually about men really brought home how messed up it is how some people view sex. Mini-rant: getting confused and insecure when sleeping with someone for the first time or several times is fine, but feeling obligated to do something because men have “needs” is ridiculous. It drives me crazy that men having “needs” is simultaneously an excuse and a source of anxiety and pressure. Charlotte’s internal dialogue regarding these issues made me doubt her feelings towards William, or that she was ready to experience something like love or even lust yet.

cooltext1718229341 copyAmanda


A native of New Jersey and lifelong nerd, Amanda Lance recently completed her Master in Liberal Arts at Thomas Edison State College after her BA in English Literature and AFA in creative writing. As an avid reader of all genres, some of her favorite authors include Hemingway, Marquis de Sade, Stevenson, Bukowski and Radcliffe.

When she isn’t writing or reading, Amanda can found indulging in film noir or hiking with her other half and their extremely spoiled dog. She is obsessively working on her next book and trying to tame her caffeine addiction.

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Happy reading, 

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