Review: Radio Silence – Alice Oseman

On the subject of Radio Silence, the reason for mine (pardon the pun!) is that I fractured my ankle on a hike two weeks ago, pursuing my New Year’s resolutions of doing more hikes.  Hear that? It’s the sound of the universe laughing at me. Anyway, apparently life on crutches is more tiring than I anticipated, so it’s basically been a routing of work-come home-collapse in bed-repeat.

radio silenceWhat if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

Rating: 4/5

This book really spoke to me with regards to the subject matter. I so wish I’d had it to read when I needed it the most.

Academics were my strength when I was at high school, and it essentially became a crucial part of my identity, preparing for the next step of some kind of impressive, difficult university degree. Rocket science or the like. I ended up burning out because I gave too much when it really didn’t matter, and instead pursued a humanities degree.

But it was a long process to figure out what I was good at and what my strengths were outside the realm of school, where I was no longer the smartest person in the room. And while that sounds vain, academics were all that anybody, including myself, associated with me. It was dispiriting and disconcerting and I loathe the pressure and expectations put on high-performing students in the modern school system. (By far not the only thing wrong with the modern school system, and I fully realise that I had it better than the struggling kids for whom academic life was torture.)

Being clever was, after all, my primary source of self-esteem. I’m a very sad person, in all senses of the word, but at least I was going to get into university. 

For Frances, the protagonist, the closer the end of school approaches, the more she is in doubt about her future path. She too is mired in the expectations of being a top student, and everything she’s done this far in her life has been to prepare her for entrance to a good university so she can get that prized degree. Unlike me, Frances already knows what else she enjoys and is good at – so dubbed ‘Real Francis’ – art, funky clothing, geek culture, a mysterious podcast.

“Do you eat the same thing for lunch every day?”
“I’m very unimaginative,” I said, “and I don’t like change.”

I adored the relationships in the novel.

You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl. I just wanted to say – we don’t.

Yes! A novel centered on an entirely platonic boy-girl friendship. A glorious friendship where they support each other and have shared common interests! It was beautiful to witness.

“And I’m platonically in love with you.”
“That was literally the boy-girl version of ‘no homo’, but I appreciate the sentiment.” 

Frances’ mom was a gem. Supportive, wonderful, lenient when it matters, aware of the fact no one can put more pressure on Frances than Frances herself. A plus parenting, Mom!

“Don’t let him escape!”, said Mum. “This could be your only chance at securing a spouse!”

The supporting cast – Daniel, Raine and Carys. All of whom come together in their own way.

And there were so many other wonderful aspects:

  • I loved the Night Vale-inspired podcast with a terrible punny name – Universe City. Haunting, poignant, mysterious.
  • The humour was light but wry and I’m young enough to enjoy it.

They were playing indie rock on this floor, and it was a lot quieter too, which I was glad of, because the dubstep was starting to make me feel a bit panicked, like it was the theme music for an action film and I had ten seconds to save myself from an explosion. 

  • It also perfectly captures online fan-culture. I had to smile at some of the Tumblr references – Oseman gets it down to a T. Indeed, what impressed me was that while she has a distinctly teenaged voice in her narrator, it’s not bogged down in text speak, for example, and is accessible while still remaining authentic.

An all-round excellent YA novel with great representation, characters you can root for, and an internet mystery.

I couldn’t quite believe how much I seriously loved Aled Last, even if it wasn’t in the ideal way that would make it socially acceptable for us to live together until we die. 

***

ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.

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