The Radicals by Ryan McIlvain

The Radicals

Ryan McIlvain

A fiercely intelligent, wonderfully human illustration of friendship, empathy, and compassion in the midst of political upheaval.

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An intimate, suspenseful, and provocative portrait of friendship and love at its limits, and a timely exploration of class tensions and corporate excess in America

When Eli first meets Sam Westergard, he is dazzled by his new friend's charisma, energy, and determined passion. Both graduate students in New York City, the two young men bond over their idealism, their love of poetry, and their commitment to socialism, both in theory and in practice—this last taking the form of an organized protest against Soline, a giant energy company that has speculated away the jobs and savings of thousands. As an Occupy-like group begins to coalesce around him, Eli realizes that some of his fellow intellectuals are more deeply—and dangerously—devoted to the cause than others. 

A fiercely intelligent, wonderfully human illustration of friendship, empathy, and suspicion in the midst of political upheaval, Ryan McIlvain's new novel confirms him as one of our most talented and distinctive writers at work today.

Advance Galley Reviews

As much as I would have liked to enjoy this book, it just wasn't for me. Honestly, I did not finish it, as after 50 pages I couldn't bring myself to continue on. It had an interesting premise, but I was bogged down by the language, which felt cumbersome rather than sophisticated. I also had a difficult time connecting with the characters who came off pretentious and entitled (perhaps that is why they seemed so disillusioned). I'm sure there are others who would enjoy this narrative, but I am passing.

This book wasn't for me. The first two chapters bored me and were way too preachy

I had high hopes for this novel, but they ultimately weren't met. It was something that I never felt engaged in, something that felt like a task to which to return. While not a terrible book, it isn't one that I'll remember as worth talking about.

The premise of this novel intrigued me: failed grad students get caught up in an Occupy-like movement and things go too far. Unfortunately, I disliked all of the characters so much, I stopped caring about what happened to them, so the plot itself meant little to me. The main characters all seemed pretentious and arrogant, and there was little character development beyond that. I never got a good handle on WHY any of the characters made the choices, or behaved, that they did. I can't tell if the author made everyone purposely unlikeable, and at the end of the day, I guess it doesn't matter This read a little like a lite version of a Franzen novel to me. It's well-written, and I feel like I SHOULD like it, but I don't.

First book of 2018 for me. I personally wish that we could have gotten some of Sam's inside thought and point of views. Just seeing a lot from the outside and from Eli's point of view just didn't match up with the story. Eli was too whiny and indisisive. He didn't truly fit even the idea of a radical. Just a follower.

This book was a poignant reminder of what it’s like to be growing up then expected to be grown up in such a short time span. What happens when one isn’t ready for the real world and then is influenced by those that are in the real world but have no idea what the real world is? Ideals are ill-formed, peer pressure sets in, immature decisions lead to rash behavior then tragedy strikes. The story centers on Eli – an immature grad student that isn’t ready to graduate – and his push & pull struggle between what is present and what could be. On one hand, he has a beautiful, talented girlfriend that loves him and their life that could be, that should be, all it needs is time and maturity. On the other hand, he has a best friend that is radicalized and daring - who just so happens to be romantically involved with Eli’s first real girlfriend; his world is exciting and dangerous. Eli’s real problem is he can’t make up his mind…ever. He fluctuates between both worlds wearing two faces. Eventually, as we all know, the worlds will collide. This is Eli’s story. I gave this story three stars for the excellent writing but it fell short of four stars in character development. I received an advanced copy of this book in electronic format from in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted to

I could not finish this book, narrated by the most pretentious white male character, about white male characters - read like "The Secret History" or other similar books about revolting people.


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