Kokie, E. M. Radical. Candlewick Press 2016 437p $17.99 ISBN 978-0-7636-6962-1 hs/adult Realistic fiction VG-BN
Bex (Rebecca Mullen), 16 years of age, believes in being ready — ready, that is, for the inevitable time when the government fails and anarchy rules. To be ready, she practices firing weapons regularly, stays in peak physical condition, and makes plans. The problem is that she can’t get any of her family to buy in. Her brother, the favored child, mocks her, mom only wants her to be more of a girly girl, and Dad just goes along to get along with everyone. Ironically, a friend of her brother’s gets him to join a newly formed gun club that Bex and her father get involved with as well. As their involvement in the club and its members continues, all of their lives change radically. From the very first lines, “They can die in their beds for all I care. All of them”, to the last, this book presents a family that is perceived to be very dysfunctional through its actions; specifically those that could lead to a very alternative, dystopian America. The disappointment of each family member with their socioeconomic and individual circumstances is beautifully and clearly portrayed by the author, writing always in the first person as Bex. Although the story tracks Bex’s coming of age as she recognizes that only she can help herself to survive, the novel is so much more than just this. It is a portrayal of the dichotomy that exists in our society; the “haves” versus the “have nots”, the trusting versus the mistrustful, the morally strong versus the corrupt. The story does lag midway, but ramps up again in the last third of the book, in which Bex’s eyes are opened as she struggles with her own conscience in trying to determine what is right. Should she protect those who have basically thrown her under the bus, or sacrifice herself for the sake of these same people? There is one clearly written sexual encounter between Bex and Lucy, as well as several instances of Bex lusting after other young women. The story also contains outright bullying and misogyny. The background and context of the story wraps wholly around weapons and their use. With these issues, the book is not for anyone younger than high-school age, and consideration needs to be made regarding to whom the book circulates.
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Bex believes in being ready — ready for the inevitable time when the government fails and anarchy rules. To get ready, she practices firing weapons regularly, stays in peak physical condition, and makes plans. Now she just needs to get the rest of her dysfunctional family on board.
Social class-Fiction, Political unrest-Fiction —Lynn Fisher