The Radical Element Review

Author // Jessica Spotswood (Ed.)
Publication Date // March 2018
Publisher // Candlewick Press
Readership // YA
Genre // Multiple genres (mostly contemporary, magical realism, historical fiction)
Rating // ✭✭✭

I received a copy of The Radical Element from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


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.


The Radical Element, much like it’s predecessor A Tyranny of Petticoats, is an anthology of strong, female characters throughout America’s history. There is not a single story where the female characters are not front and centre of any and all action taking place, and that is a glorious thing. Tackling all facets of diversity – from religion, to skin colour, to sexual diversity – there is something that everyone can relate to on some level, and it highlights that though the times might have been different, women have thrived all throughout history (perhaps just not in the limelight).

There were some stories that absolutely delighted me, and others that were simply entertaining, but the high quality of the writing style of each story is undisputed. Anna-Marie McLemore, Mackenzie Lee and Dhonielle Clayton were familiar authors to me, but new-found favourites include Dahlia Adler and Erin Bowmen.

This is a great read – for both women and men – celebrating who we are and where we’ve come from.



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