The Radical Element — Book Review


Title: The Radical Element

Author: Jessica Spotswood

Release Date: March 13, 2018

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Synopsis: In an anthology of revolution and resistance, a sisterhood of YA writers shines a light on a century and a half of heroines on the margins and in the intersections.

To respect yourself, to love yourself—should not have to be a radical decision. And yet it remains as challenging for an American girl to make today as it was in 1927 on the steps of the Supreme Court. It’s a decision that must be faced whether you’re balancing on the tightrope of neurodivergence, finding your way as a second-generation immigrant, or facing down American racism even while loving America. And it’s the only decision when you’ve weighed society’s expectations and found them wanting. In The Radical Element, twelve of the most talented writers working in young adult literature today tell the stories of the girls of all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs—whether that means secretly learning Hebrew in early Savannah, using the family magic to pass as white in 1920s Hollywood, or singing in a feminist punk band in 1980s Boston. And they’re asking you to join them.

Hello readers! Welcome back to another review! This review is a tad different, though—the whole thing is spoiler-free! Yes! You can read this whole review (which will be a little shorter than my full length spoiler reviews) and get a glimpse of the magic that was The Radical Element.

A little history here (ha, get it? Cause these stories are historical fiction? I’ll go home.) I read Tyranny of Petticoats back in April 2016 and I really enjoyed it! I’ve read anthologies before, but it was unlike any one I’d read before. And I think The Radical Element might’ve been even better!

I’ve heard this pretty often, but anthology novels are pretty difficult to rate. It’s exhausting to go through every story (which I did for Meet Cute—ugh.) so I’ll just share my favorites from The Radical Element, along with some general thoughts and opinions.

Let’s get started!

Going in, I had no idea what to expect from TRE (The Radical Element) beside the fact that I enjoyed ToP (Tyranny of Petticoats) almost two years ago, and that this book featured some of my favorite recent authors—Anna-Marie McLemore, Dhionelle Clayton, and Mackenzi Lee—among others.

One of my favorite things about TRE was how intersectional the stories were. These topics of race, religion, sexism, disabilities, and sexuality were naturally integrated into the stories. As a supporter of diverse books, it was great to read about all of these ideas coming together under a theme of historical females being epic.

With some anthologies, I always seem to lose interest—or maybe even skip—certain stories. That didn’t happen with TRE. I was (most of the time) really interested in each story. (Especially toward the middle, those were probably the best.)

As I said before in Meet Cute, I prefer the stories with a clear plot structure, rather than just a string of events and then an ending. (I know it’s difficult to create great world building and dynamic characters in 50 pages but I think it can be done cause some of these authors in TRE did it.)

The best stories (to me, at least, but I read another review and someone agreed) were by far Anna-Marie McLemore’s Glamour and Dhionelle Clayton’s When the Moonlight Isn’t Enough. There was world-building, backstory, complex and diverse characters of color, and above all, a plot that was engaging and when they ended, I begged for a full-length novel. (Like, seriously.)

That’s not to say that the rest of the stories weren’t good, but the characters and themes just didn’t resonate as much as my two favorites. (I also really liked Lady Firebrand by Megan Shepherd and thought I should add that.)

Overall, I liked The Radical Element. It was a fun, often insightful, read Usually, anthologies are hit or miss, and I think I can say for the most part, this book was pretty much a hit for me. *thumbs up*


I’m Jill and thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

(Kidding, I just love that Twitter meme that lasted .02 seconds.)

I definitely recommend The Radical Element if you like feminism, historical fiction, and great YA authors!

Thanks for reading! Have you read The Radical Element? (Did I convince you to? 🙂




2 thoughts on “The Radical Element — Book Review

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