Review: Radio Silence

What 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.

I haven’t read Solitaire, Alice Oseman’s debut novel, although I did see and hear about it everywhere, enough that Radio Silence caught my eye anyway. Solitaire was a success. I wanted to know who Alice Oseman was. Obviously  I still don’t know that because you know, we haven’t actually met. I can tell you this much though: she can write; Radio Silence is funny and real and incredibly incredibly honest. It’s written by someone who understands her target market, who seems to really feel what it’s like to be university age right now. A quick Google tells me she is only 21 years old. It all makes sense now; Oseman is writing what she knows and she’s getting it absolutely right. If you want a book that’s relevant to the right now, then this is a book that you want to be reading. 

It’s a pretty interesting study of some fairly complex issues this book, which, well I do love a book with a message. It’s not preachy though and it doesn’t shove its message in your face, but it does make you say ‘oh yeah actually, that’s pretty damn accurate.’ It’s a really interesting look at what it’s like to be the nerdy kid, or the smart girl, an interesting look at how people like ‘study machine Frances Janvier’ are seen by their peers. It’s also a really awesome look at friendships and relationships and how people change and grow together and apart and I love the lack of romance. Seriously. Take this exchange between Frances and Aled who in most other books would be kissing face by the chapter eight:

 “‘And I’m platonically in love with you.’

‘That was literally the boy-girl version of ‘no homo’, but I appreciate the sentiment.'”

I love it. I love it that the focal point of this book, the key relationship is that of a friendship, a completely platonic relationship between a boy and a girl. AMAZING. There’s not even a hint of sexual tension; there’s no slow burn; there’s no instalove; there’s not a single YA Romance trope. There’s just a boy and a girl being best friends and being awesome. Give me all of that and more please. There’s also a m/m relationship that’s as real as they come, complete with ups and downs and messy emotional misunderstandings. I mean, if this book were less well-written it might feel as though it followed a check-list for diversity with the aforementioned m/m relationship, a handful of LGBT characters and 3 out of 4 characters being POC but it doesn’t read like that at all, what it reads like is an excellent, relevant (and I know I am overusing that word right now) accurate, honest story. None of these characters feel like ‘Token Gay,’ it feels like their sexuality, their skin colour just is – they’re well rounded and fully fleshed out and extremely relatable to. Excellent charaterisation really is excellent – you feel like you know these kids, like you’re under their skin. They’re just…vivid.  You want to be their friend. Damn, I want to be Alice Oseman’s friend. Hey Alice, wanna be pals?

It’s also an excellent look at the internet and fandom and the like, in a totally different way to Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl but no less excellent. The fandom in question is a podcast called Universe City which I believe to be inspired by Welcome to NightVale which I have heard of but never listened to (but now kind of want to) just like I want to listen to the bits of UC that are on YouTube. How awesome is that? I love it. I love that Universe City is a thing I can go and listen to because those parts of the book, the University City transcripts and the mystery surrounding February Friday (be still my heart omg) were pretty much my fave parts of the whole thing. So there’s the whole Universe City thing and its look at internet fame and fandom and all that jazz (super relevant because look at what the world looks like, it’s all Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, instagram Tumblr; it’s all about finding something you love and gushing over it online, that’s what being a young adult looks like right now, and I love how Oseman has used that to tell her story) there’s an excellent amount of diversity, there’s a look at the pressures of leaving college and deciding what to do next, especially when it’s always felt like your life is pre-planned, there’s a smart look at familial relationships, there’s minimal romance, and there’s Frances, who young adults all over the place are going to see themselves in; I’m almost 32 and I recognised myself in her. I mean this is a girl that’s got booksmarts but is still kind of awkward, that obsesses over YouTube channels and can fangirl like a pro, that sits around the house in PJ pants and hoodies eating pizza and who wants to be invited to go clubbing with the girls from school but hates it when she actually gets there and who puts more pressure on herself than is ever ever necessary. She’s perfectly flawed and I love her. 

All in all, this book is just excellent. The only flaw really, is that there was so much that was excellent that it felt a little busy sometimes and some things I would have liked to have been explored in a little more detail; some people I would have liked to have seen more of got left a little by the wayside. Minor niggle is minor though. & as a book that says it’s ok to not know who you are or what you want; it’s ok to spend your life wanting one thing and then realise it’s not the right fit after all, that it’s not all about what others expectations of you and that whatever you do, whoever you are, you’re ok, I think it’s really important. 

Radio Silence is a good book, and it’s a book that you don’t see that often: Oseman has identified a gap in her genre and she fills it perfectly. S’a book you should read, this one. GO AND DO JUST THAT