Book Reviews

Blog Tour: Book Review: Free Radicals by Lila Riesen

Free Radicals is a story that steadily built up. It ended up an emotional tour de force about identity, friendship, and family. For those looking for powerful YA contemporary stories, this is for you. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Afghan-American Mafi’s sophomore year gets a whole lot more complicated when she accidentally exposes family secrets, putting her family back in Afghanistan in danger in this smartly written YA debut.

Sixteen-year-old Mafi Shahin knows life is not always fair. If it were she’d have just as much freedom as her older brother Rafi and her crush—basketball star Jalen Thomas—would see her as more than Rafi’s kid sister. And if life were fair, Mafi’s family in Afghanistan wouldn’t have to flee their homes to be safe.

Life may not be fair, but as the Ghost, her high school’s secret avenger, Mafi vows to make it a bit more even, meting out karmic justice on behalf of classmates who’ve been wronged. They simply leave a revenge note detailing the transgression in the knot of the SOL tree, and Mafi takes care of the rest.

But there are rules to being the Ghost: Don’t get caught. Never reveal your identity. Never involve the police, and definitely don’t get emotionally involved. But starting sophomore year, everything changes when instead of a revenge note, a wish turns up in the tree and Mafi breaks all her rules, putting her heart and even her family in Afghanistan at risk. Now Mafi will have to decide who she wants to be—the Ghost, making the world a just place from the shadows or something real, standing up for what’s right in the daylight.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Free Radicals is a story that balances this idea of justice with transparency. On one hand it’s a story about Ghost and Mafi as she enacts justice on her classmates. While she’s happy to help right the scales, especially after she was targeted with vicious untrue rumors, but she’s itching to do more. On the other hand, Free Radicals is a story about identity and family. About our fears, the threats, and racism which causes us to live in the shadows.

What starts off a story about Ghost becomes a story about the intricacies of family, identity in the United States, and our future. The ways in which her father, father, and brother all relate to their identity in different ways. But which, are all at its core, related to the ways we are perceived, safety, and our past. Free Radicals takes its name from the radical actions in our lives. Whether it be the courage to say sorry, to fight against oppression, or to speak out for our family. It explores our capacity to change, to be brave, to seek forgiveness and understanding.

Free Radicals is also a story about knowing our past. About allowing it to become a piece of ourselves and not just something we ‘put away’. To feel like we shouldn’t have to hide pieces of our family, our heritage, and to be seen for who we are and not only what we look like.




Book Depository

Barnes & Noble


Blog Tour

March 21st 

@gsreadingspree – Book Review

March 22nd

@Page_Appropriate – Book Review

March 23rd

LadyReader – Review and Edit 

March 24th

Pluvioreads – Review & Reel 

March 25th 

PopTheButterfly Reads – Book Review

March 26th

Ofbooksandromance – Book Review 

March 27th

Jennsorganizedshelf – Book Review

March 28th

Glenofalltime – Book Review

March 29th

Brinn’s Books – Book Review 

March 30th

Pisces: The Book Lover – Book Review

March 31st 

@secretrhs05 – Book Review

April 1st

@wordsandcyphers – Mood Board

April 2nd

My World of Wonders – Review and Favorite Quotes

Crystal Z. Lee – Book Review

April 3rd

Utopia State of Mind – Book Review 

About the Author

The daughter of Afghan and Australian immigrants, Lila Riesen was raised in the United States. Her undergraduate studies in English were completed at Indiana University and the Australian National University. In 2017, Lila graduated with a master’s degree in English literature and linguistics from the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Free Radicals is her first novel, inspired by her cashew-coveting baba and all the Afghans fighting for peace, in the US and abroad.

Author Links: 







What is your favorite story with a basketball player?

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.