Book Reviews

Review: The Radical Element edited by Jessica Spotswood

I was absolutely blown away by The Radical Element and I think everyone should read this. If you love historical fiction, feminism, and fiery heroines, this should make its way to your shelf.


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.


book review The Radical Element edited by Jessica Spotswood(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

I fell in love with The Radical Element from the introduction to the final pages. It was inevitable that I would. I mean, I am the biggest historical fiction fan and I cannot resist a good heroine. The Radical Element would be the ultimate kryptonite. It not only gave me one fiery heroine – it gave me twelve. I repeat twelve.

Many of the authors I was already familiar, and a huge fan of: Mackenzi Lee, Anna-Marie McLemore, Dhonielle Clayton, and Stacey Lee. But I found myself falling in love with the rest. And that’s the beauty of anthologies – you find new authors to crush on and find their books.

The Stories

There was such a range of diversity within these pages. The Radical Element warmed my heart in so many ways: giving me variety, difficult dilemmas, and heroines that were not afraid to put themselves first. Their identities are questioned, put at stake, and they have to figure out what is worth fighting for. Be still my heart. I could fall in love with all of them.

The first story is stunning and they keep going. Our heroines defy expectations in numerous ways: religion, societal expectations, ambition. And you root for them every time. I loved that it was organized chronologically and that each is based on history. Each author does research and writes a story that is grounded in fact, but flourished with emotion. In each story, we can see the plots, characters, and struggles. (The author’s notes are particularly amazing to read. So the wonderful-ness never truly stops).


The Radical Element will introduce you to an amazing collection of authors, both familiar and new to you. This whole collection illustrates that activists, heroines, and fiery girls were around even if they are not remembered. It is an important collection that highlights diversity, bravery, and the importance of defying expectations. Based in history, The Radical Element showcases different areas and locations with vivid detail. The characters are where this anthology shines as they make us root for them as they take on society. It is, above all, a hopeful collection about the marks we too can make and the history we can shape.

Go grab The Radical Element on Goodreads.


Are you a fan of anthologies? You need to pick this up!

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