The story begins with Gretchen, a girl who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after she was assaulted. Through her eyes, we see the very real challenges that PTSD poses, to both Gretchen and her loved ones. She sees the man who assaulted her wherever she goes, and despite all the love and understanding she receives from her family, each day is a different battle.
Early on, we also meet Phoenix, a boy with his own very real issues. Phoenix is a young boy, who recently escaped El Salvador and the gang violence that threatened his life as well as his brother's. Since he was young, he has known nothing but fear when it comes to the gangs who terrorized his neighborhood. When they threaten something more precious than his own life, he made the choice to escape and come to the US illegally. Here he finds safety, kindness, but also judgement... and eventually, Gretchen.
I can't properly put into words how much I adored these two together. Their friendship was so pure, and their understanding of each other was effortless- they were a perfect match. Through them, we were able to see how acceptance and kindness can truly change another's life. The way their relationship evolved throughout the book kept me so invested through the entire thing and I just was constantly smiling at how adorable they were together!
Overall, I found this to be a refreshing and sweet book. It is not often when I read a book that paints undocumented people in this light: as humans who love and deserve as much compassion as anyone else. It also isn't often when you see a book that correctly portrays PTSD without making the character's entire story revolve around it- Gretchen was much more than her illness. Add on a sweet romance, great secondary characters, and an unpredictable, but satisfying ending and The Radius Of Us will definitely be a favorite of 2017.