Sunday, March 11, 2018

Review: The Radicals

The Radicals The Radicals by Ryan McIlvain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On the surface Eli and Sam seem like any other twenty-somethings—they are attending grad school, they philosophize just for fun, they play tennis together and they develop a social conscience. What sets these two apart is their eventual spiral into life's gray area where good intentions cannot solve the world's problems, only show them that as part of a privileged class, they are really just another part of the problem keeping everyone else down.

Eli and Sam take what was to be a stand against corporate America and its greed a step too far. They start by trying to save the home of a woman in Arizona who was getting a raw deal, but the other social activists that they meet during this time will help shape their outlook on social justice and plant the seed that turns a weekend college protest into a Weathermen-esque plot for violence against one of the one-percenters.

I do like the writing style of this novel, however, I don't have an ounce of sympathy for Eli, Sam, or any of the other characters that grace this book. Even Maria from Arizona ends up being a sellout, with little thanks to those who tried to help her. Eli and Sam are privileged themselves, which quite a lot of college and grad students somehow forget while they are trying to fight for social change, so it makes for a muted argument as to how they could get it in their minds that they are essential to national or global change. Eli in particular is living in a haze of laziness—at any point in this novel Eli could have just stopped, evaluated where he was, hit the parents up for another check, and established a life for himself. But he doesn't. If feels like he has little connection to the Group after Arizona, yet his indecisiveness just keeps him tagging along for it all. With the end not really giving readers any sort of satisfaction (whether you liked Eli or not), it sort of fell flat, just like Eli's good intentions from the beginning.

*Book provided by Blogging for Books

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