The Radical Element

The Radical Element

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 de...

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Title:The Radical Element
Author:Jessica Spotswood
Rating:

The Radical Element Reviews

  • Lauren Stoolfire

    As an American girl in the past and the present the decision to respect yourself can sometimes be challenging and radical. You have to face it whether you're neurodivergent, a second-generation immigrant, or facing racism. Self-respect is the only decision when you've weighed societal expectations and found them wanting. In this anthology, twelve talented YA authors present stories of all sorts of girls from all colors and creeds

    As an American girl in the past and the present the decision to respect yourself can sometimes be challenging and radical. You have to face it whether you're neurodivergent, a second-generation immigrant, or facing racism. Self-respect is the only decision when you've weighed societal expectations and found them wanting. In this anthology, twelve talented YA authors present stories of all sorts of girls from all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs from the 1830s to the 1980s. Are you ready to join them?

    is a compelling collection of twelve short stories taking place between 1838-1984. My favorites include "The Magician" by Erin Bowman (1858, Colorado River, New Mexico Territory), "Lady Firebrand" by Megan Shepherd (1863, Charleston, South Carolina), "When the Moonlight Isn't Enough" by Dhonielle Clayton (1943, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts), "The Bell of the Ball" by Sarvenaz Tash (1952, Brooklyn, New York), and "Land of the Sweet, Home of the Brave" by Stacey Lee (1955, Oakland, California). All of the stories in this collection give the reader a good taste of the characters, the setting, and their lives. Of those stories that I mentioned by name, I would absolutely love to see a full length novel about Lady Firebrand's daring adventures and I'm dying for more from the world of "When the Moonlight Isn't Enough". Clayton's story is the only one that features a dash of fantasy and I couldn't get enough. There's so much more that could be explored whether we follow the main character, her parents, or what happens just after the short story in this collection ends.

    Overall,

    edited by Jessica Spotswood is a perfect read for Women's History Month. I love how the authors of the short stories so expertly blend historical fact with fiction (and in one case a dash of fantasy). This anthology is incredibly inspirational and is put together by some of the best names in the business. I absolutely need to pick up a copy of the companion collection called

    in the future.

  • Clara

    A friend of mine recommended me the first anthology, so when this one has been added to Netgalley I knew I had to ask for it. If you don't know what it's about,

    is basically an anthology about all those women who didn't fit in the society they were born in and who had to fight to get a chance to be heard.

    It's always so hard to review anthologies, and it's still the case here, but the subject is so importa

    A friend of mine recommended me the first anthology, so when this one has been added to Netgalley I knew I had to ask for it. If you don't know what it's about,

    is basically an anthology about all those women who didn't fit in the society they were born in and who had to fight to get a chance to be heard.

    It's always so hard to review anthologies, and it's still the case here, but the subject is so important that I can't think of another rating than 4 stars. This book is beautiful and delivers such a strong message: everyone should read it. It really empowered me and made me believe that you should be proud of who you are and fight for your right to be free to be whoever you want to be and already are.

    I believe that the representation was good, but you should all look to #ownvoices reviews to be sure of it. It felt so good to read something so diverse because the world is and everyone should be represented in literature.

    In the end, I really enjoyed the whole book: I loved some short stories more than others but overall the whole anthology was really good and well edited. I'm really glad that I read it!

  • Acqua

    is a historical fiction anthology about radical and dauntless young women throughout American history. It follows girls ahead of their times, marginalized girls, girls who were in some way unconventional.

    It’s the second book in a series. The first,

    , followed brave and “badass” girls; I read it more than a year ago, and I remember having mixed feelings on it. I liked this one a bit more, though it had its low points too.

    Overall, this didn't disappoint.

    is a historical fiction anthology about radical and dauntless young women throughout American history. It follows girls ahead of their times, marginalized girls, girls who were in some way unconventional.

    It’s the second book in a series. The first,

    , followed brave and “badass” girls; I read it more than a year ago, and I remember having mixed feelings on it. I liked this one a bit more, though it had its low points too.

    Overall, this didn't disappoint.

    shines a spotlight on people who are often forgotten, erased in historical records, and who were considered outcasts because they didn't fit the norms.

    One thing didn’t convince me: these two anthologies about the history of the USA didn’t include, as far as I know, any Native American authors. There were barely any native characters (Yakone in the first book, and one of the characters from this one vaguely mentions she has “indian blood” and lives in a “half-Creek and half-Cherokee” territory); since this is a otherwise fairly diverse anthology, this absence stood out to me.

    Also: unlike

    , this didn’t have any f/f stories.

    : 3.5 stars.

    I had already read a book by this author – it was

    , a f/f contemporary novel I recommend – so I knew I really liked her writing style.

    This is the story of a Jewish girl who wants to receive a full education and maybe become a teacher, which was something radical for her time period. I loved the many (not only historical) details.

    I knew nothing about Mormon history, so this was interesting. I loved the setting and what the Eliza says to Vilatte about faith near the end of the story. I like Mackenzi Lee’s writing style; this story didn’t have the humor or tone of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, but it worked just as well.

    This was really interesting for a crossdressing story; at the end of it it’s hinted that Ray may be a person who would today identify as genderfluid/non-binary. That’s uncommon in historical books, but people like Ray have always existed, so I liked this. However, the actual plot was kind of boring at times.

    This was more interesting than I expected. A free black girl and a disabled white girl are union spies. Chemistry! Explosions! Of course, TW: racism.

    This was fun! A girl wants to run away from her abusive uncle with the circus. I really liked the main characters and the writing. The first scene drew me in immediately, and the descriptions of the circus were my favorite part.

    I will read everything Anna-Marie McLemore writes. This was just… so much better than all the other stories in the book. It’s a magical realism story about the racism, queerphobia and ableism in Hollywood, and it follows a Mexican girl who is able to whitewash herself to fit in and a disabled trans boy. Both of them live afraid of being found out, but find each other instead. I loved how this story approached a scene which could have been harmful (Graciela sees Sawyer half naked) in a really sensitive way. Graciela never questions Sawyer’s identity.

    reminded me of

    because of its symbolism, and in a good way – now I have a lot of feelings.

    TW: eugenics

    I had never read an ownvoices story about an autistic girl before; it’s difficult to find them, especially in historical fiction or SFF.

    Better for all the World follows an autistic girl who wants to become a lawyer. She is following the Carrie Buck case – who was sterilized because she was “feeble-minded” (that’s how they called people who had mental illnesses/developmental disabilities). The worst part is that some people argue that this should happen today too. It was infuriating to read, painful, but great. At the end of the story, the main character finds out that some friendships just aren’t worth it, especially when the other person doesn’t value you as you really are, or claims to like you while advocating for the oppression of other people like you.

    A magical black family drinks moonlight to be immortal, but their daughter wants to grow up and help her country win the war – a country that doesn’t value her at all. A really interesting concept, and the writing was lovely, but overall the story felt disjointed.

    I had never read anything by this author before. While the writing didn’t impress me, I can say I loved the main character’s voice. Rosemary is a girl who is struggling because her mother’s expectations do not include becoming a comedy writer.

    An Asian-American girl (Chinese father, biracial Japanese mother who was born in Hawaii) decides to participate in a contest to be the new “Sugar Maiden” – the girl whose face will be on the sugar boxes. I have loved everything I’ve read by Stacey Lee, and this was no exception.

    Lanakila Lau was one of my favorite main characters, and reading about the aftermath of Japanese internment and the history of Asian-Americans in Hawaii was really interesting.

    A Cuban-American girl is coming to terms with her past (her and her parents were exiled from Cuba), family expectations and who she wants to be in the future. The grandparents she hasn’t seen in 12 years are coming to visit her, and she isn’t sure how she feels about that. I didn’t love this one; it meandered and it was far too long.

    I had never read anything by Sara Farizan before. Take Me With U is about an Iranian girl, her immigrant family in the 80s, and her love for music. It was short and I don’t have any thoughts about it – it was just ok.

  • April (Aprilius Maximus)

    Definitely the weakest of the two anthologies in this series. My favourite was definitely Sara Farizan's 'Take Me With U'!

    Daughter of the Book by Dahlier Adler - 3.5/5 stars

    You're A Stranger Here by Mackenzi Lee - 2.5/5 stars

    The Magician by Erin Bowman - 3/5 stars

    Lady Firebrand by Megan Shepherd – 4/5 stars

    Step Right Up by Jessica Spotswood - 2.5/5 stars

    Glamour by Anna-Marie McLemore - 4/5 stars

    Better For All the World by Marieke Nijkamp - 3/5 stars

    When The Moon Isn’t Enough by Dhonielle Clayton

    Definitely the weakest of the two anthologies in this series. My favourite was definitely Sara Farizan's 'Take Me With U'!

    Daughter of the Book by Dahlier Adler - 3.5/5 stars

    You're A Stranger Here by Mackenzi Lee - 2.5/5 stars

    The Magician by Erin Bowman - 3/5 stars

    Lady Firebrand by Megan Shepherd – 4/5 stars

    Step Right Up by Jessica Spotswood - 2.5/5 stars

    Glamour by Anna-Marie McLemore - 4/5 stars

    Better For All the World by Marieke Nijkamp - 3/5 stars

    When The Moon Isn’t Enough by Dhonielle Clayton – 3.5/5 stars

    The Belle of the Ball by Sarvenaz Tash – 3.5/5 stars

    Land of the Sweet, Home of the Brave by Stacey Lee – 4/5 stars

    The Birth of Susi Go-Go by Meg Medina – 3.5/5 stars

    Take Me With U by Sara Farizan – 4.5/5 stars

    Average Rating - 3.46

  • alice (arctic books)

    You can find this review and others at

    2.5/5 stars

    I’m starting to think that anthologies are just Not For Me. The past few anthologies that I’ve read had good content, but I just haven’t been into them as much as I wish I had. That being said, THE RADICAL ELEMENT contains amazing short stories from stellar YA authors.

    These twelve short stories are diverse in so many ways – there’s queer people, people of color, people with disabilities – I found myself in a few characters, especially

    You can find this review and others at

    2.5/5 stars

    I’m starting to think that anthologies are just Not For Me. The past few anthologies that I’ve read had good content, but I just haven’t been into them as much as I wish I had. That being said, THE RADICAL ELEMENT contains amazing short stories from stellar YA authors.

    These twelve short stories are diverse in so many ways – there’s queer people, people of color, people with disabilities – I found myself in a few characters, especially in Stacey Lee’s short story. A lot of short stories in this are set in a historical time period, most of which are in the twentieth century, such as the Roaring 20s, World War II, and others. If you enjoy historical fiction, you are bound to love this collection of stories.

    Overall, I do think that I’m starting to lose interest in short stories in general and perhaps historical fiction isn’t for me. However, I’m an intersectional feminist, and I related with many of these stories. I appreciate the wonderful diversity by #ownvoices authors that were featured in this short story collection. If you want to read more diversely from some amazing authors in this historical fiction anthology, be sure to pick this one up!

    Thank you to Candlewick for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Dahlia

    So,

    excited and honored to be contributing to this anthology, and cannot wait to read everyone else's stories!

  • Erin Bowman

    I'm so excited (and honored!) to be contributing to this anthology, and yes, you can expect me to write something set in the Wild West. Yeehaw! (

    )

    : Much like with

    , I loved this anthology and the wonderful mix of stories it provides. The girls featured in this book are radical, indeed, and I can't wait for you to read about them! :)

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    this is one of only two expired netgalley arcs on my list, so I’m excited to get it read and reviewed!!

    ____________________________

    this is one of only two expired netgalley arcs on my list, so I’m excited to get it read and reviewed!!

    ____________________________

    This anthology has twelve stories, and my rating is a reflection of all twelve.

  • Nat

    I recently answered the

    book tag (and had THE MOST FUN doing so), wherein I featured this collection for Tom Haverford's

    Here is what I wrote taken directly from the tag:

    January was also the month where I received the opportunity to read an incredible short story written by Dahlia Adler in 

    anthology. 

    was the introducing story to the collection, and my immediate first thought upon completing it went, "I don

    I recently answered the

    book tag (and had THE MOST FUN doing so), wherein I featured this collection for Tom Haverford's

    Here is what I wrote taken directly from the tag:

    January was also the month where I received the opportunity to read an incredible short story written by Dahlia Adler in 

    anthology. 

    was the introducing story to the collection, and my immediate first thought upon completing it went, "I don’t know how any following tale will top that one." (And as you can tell, since I'm not writing a full review for the anthology, I had to put the book down because I couldn't continue reading without comparing each following tale to the phenomenal opening one.)

    Set in 1838, Savannah, Georgia,

    follows Rebekah's fight and journey to receive a more fulfilling Jewish education.

    Dahlia Adler created one of the most memorable protagonists I've encountered in my reading with Rebekah Wolf. And it is the first time that I’m actually aching for a short story to be expanded into a full novel.

    I’ve read a whole lot of short stories in anthologies these past few years, but I’ve truly never felt so seen before. There are talks of Hebrew, Torah, the Prophets, our history, language, and people. To paraphrase

    ,

    And as someone who does listen avidly to Torah lessons, I couldn’t have asked for a better story to capture the essence of my appreciation.

    Also, having watched the Israeli show

    , which is about four young Orthodox yeshiva students, made the characters in this short story stand out that more. Speaking of which, I would highly recommend giving the show a try if you enjoyed Dahlia Adler’s story because it showcases formidable female characters challenging the norm, as well as featuring situations with outstanding humor and precise commentary that makes everything shift in your point of view.

    If you're interested, the first episode is available to check out with English subtitles on the official Youtube page

    .

    ,

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