American Subversive by David Goodwillie is a thought-provoking thriller that explores the motivations behind radicalism in an age of disillusionment and impotence.
The novel is structured as a split memoir, alternating between the points of view of Aidan Cole, a journalism school dropout now blogging about the media for the Gawker-like “Roorback.com,” and Paige Roderick, a bombshell turned bomber, part of the inner circle of a radical group modeled on the Weather Underground.
Through their stories, the reader is taken on a journey to uncover the truth behind the attack on the Barneys building in New York.
The book examines the idea of belief turned inside-out, and how the media can be used to manipulate public opinion. It also looks at the idea of complacency in the face of injustice, and how it can lead to radicalization.
The characters grapple with the idea of whether or not writers can make a difference, and if they can prevent the next terrorist bombing. The author also touches on the idea of Americans’ complicity via complacency, and how it compares to social and political movements in South America.
The book is filled with big ideas, but unfortunately fails to explore them in depth. It also features a bit of romance, which feels unnecessary and detracts from the overall story. Despite this, the book does not take sides and does not become polemical, instead allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.
What I Liked
The setting, idea, and plot were very interesting. The writing was engaging. Solid, memorable novel that explored the state of mind for extremists. Interesting.
What I Did Not Like
Some of the characters went down some odd paths. But nothing else really to dislike.