by Alice Oseman
read in July 2018
rating: 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review
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 was incredibly hesitant to pick up Radio Silence. So many of my friends absolutely love this book, so I was afraid my expectations would be too high and I’d end up feeling disappointed. When I finally started reading this book, however, I immediately knew this would be a five stars read!
Frances Janvier is the main character. She is bisexual and biracial (her mother is white, her father Ethiopian). She was an incredibly relatable protagonist. When I was in secondary school, I was exactly like her. The only thing I excelled at, was getting good grates. When I went to college, however, I realised I wasn’t as clever as I thought. I graduated a year ago and that’s still something I struggle with. I studied to be become a teacher for four years, finally got my diploma and now I realise I can’t handle the stress of the job. I want to do something completely different now which I don’t even need a degree for and that hurts. It feels like I wasted four years of my life. Anyway, Frances went through these same emotions, which felt very comforting.
The centre of the story is Frances’ and Aled’s friendship and the podcast Universe City. The friendships in this novel were absolutely beautiful. They’re complex and messy, but so very strong. These characters love each other and it made me cry many times. I really appreciate that Aled and Frances never got romantically nor sexually involved. Instead, Alice Oseman gave us a complicated M/M relationship and some F/F moments ❤
Besides the friendships, I also adored the relationship Frances has with her mother. Her mom is hilarious and I love that Frances felt so comfortable to share so much with her.
As I have mentioned, Frances is bisexual and biracial. Aled is demisexual and his best friend Daniel is English-Korean and gay. Aled’s sister Carys is a lesbian and Frances’ friend Raine is Indian. I really liked the diversity and I absolutely adore my queer children! Frances’ “when I realised I was bi” story was so relatable, I cried!
Aled is such a complicated character. It’s never explicitly said in the book, but he’s clearly depressed. Radio Silence shows that mental illnesses can be ugly and that’s okay. Yes, they’re no excuse for being shitty, but your brain can be convinced that e.g. everyone hates and uses you, so it’s understandable that you lash out. What some would call irrational behaviour, I found honest and relatable.
Alice Oseman is a very young writer – she’s only one year older than me! – and I think that’s one of her strengths. She understands fandoms because she has been part of them, which once again made Radio Silence so relatable. I loved that she showed how toxic fandoms can be. The creator of the podcast Universe City gets stalked and receives death treats; it’s very ugly. To outsiders this might seem dramatic, but as someone who has been a part of many fandoms, I can assure you that some fans know no boundaries.
Additionally, I completely understand why our characters preferred to stay anonymous online. I could identify with this as I also freak out whenever someone I know in real life discovers my social media. I am not the same person online as I am in real life – I’m much more myself on here – so that made me like these characters even more.
I don’t have any experiences with podcasts, so whenever they talked about Universe City and Frances’ drawings, I kind of envisioned the Hot Daga from Buzzfeed Unsolved 😛
content and trigger warnings for parental abuse, anxiety, depression, mentions of suicide, “just friends”, outing a character to their sibling, alcohol, animal death
Clearly, I adored this novel. I can’t wait to read more of Oseman’s work and I hope I will love it as much as I did this one. While reading Radio Silence I cried and hugged my book many times, so I will surely re-read this in the future.
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