This is a strong contender for my book of the year. I’m so glad I managed to fit this one into my increasingly limited reading time. I could ramble on about all the little details that make it so great, but for fear of boring everyone, here’s a list of reasons why you should grab a copy right now:
- Alice Oseman is only 22. She got a publishing deal at 17, published said book, Solitaire, at 19 and then wrote this one, Radio Silence, as a university student. In other words, she hit the writing jackpot and I would quite like to be her right now. What this also means is that she can capture how it is to be a teenager right now with the most accuracy, as, you know, she basically still is one. There’s nothing more jarring in a book than when an author clearly doesn’t understand how Facebook works or the appropriate manner of texting decorum. Now, I’m not trying to say that older writers are too crinkly and out-the-loop to write YA – without a doubt, all authors have something unique to bring to the YA scene. I’m just trying to say how it’s awesome to read about Twitter DMs and Tumblr fan art and YouTube podcasts and emojis and memeing and … *edits out ramble
- The character development in this book is great. It was done so well that I barely noticed until the plot went back around to the beginning to show how much our lead, Frances, has changed. She begins as “School Frances”, Cambridge applicant, Head Girl, perfect student, possessor of approximately zero friends. But by the end, she has flipped herself inside out, so she’s wearing her rambling self, Monsters-Inc.-leggings-fashion-sense and art love on the outside. When she tries to fit back in with her original group after the summer holidays, “School Frances” has well and truly gone and it’s wonderful to see.
- The process of applying to university is handled so well that I think it should be thrown at A Level students in the same way as prospectuses and the Which? Guide to University. It really captures the whole you must go the highest ranking, most academic university and study the most intellectually vigorous course or else you’re a failure at eighteen stuff that is thrown unthinkingly at students who are already crying over their Biology coursework and how exactly they’re going to remember the entire contents of Othello before their exam. Radio Silence turns this on its head, sending the message that it’s great if that is, in fact, the type of person you are, but it’s also great if you just want to get started on a job after school, or if you’d rather go to art school, or if you realise you made a terrible choice mid-way through your first year of uni. These are all valid feelings. And if our teachers won’t tell that to sixteen/seventeen-year-olds, then it’s about time our books do.
- The characters are all at different stages of figuring out their sexuality. While this often contributes or enhances the main plot, it’s also just how the characters are. It’s kind of just like: I am bi. Isn’t that cool? Now, who is February Friday?!? This book is also the first I’ve read that mentions the word ‘demisexual’, so it feels like a step towards being able to throw the book at someone and shout ‘It’s a real thing, I tell you!’
It doesn’t matter what the word is, to be honest… I’m just trying to explain what I actually… like… feel. It’s the feeling that’s the important thing.
- If you’re a YouTube addict like I am, you’ll greatly appreciate how much it’s a part of the plot. Considering it’s a prose novel, video content is portrayed just as vividly as the rest of the story. A large portion of the story itself is thinking about the differences and parallels between the YouTube podcast show, Radio Silence, and the life of its creator.
- This might not be a positive for everyone, but it certainly is for me: there is no romantic plot or subplot. Not once. Barely even hinted at. And this is a book with a teenage girl and a teenage boy featuring as its main characters. THEY ARE JUST FRIENDS. I never thought the day would come.
- Aled, Frances’ new best friend, is an absolute fluffball of sweetness. He makes some terrible decisions throughout the book, but he’s such a lovely character that everyone is still behind him and ready to take last minute train journeys across the country to help him out. And, considering he is indeed a fluffball of sweetness, he’s been dealt a pretty bad set of Life Cards and I just want to construct a protective bubble around him. By the end, I’d say the book is really Aled’s story, narrated by Frances, and I am incredibly grateful for that last scene that pops the wings onto the adorable fairy cake.
- Frances’ mum is amazing. Now, usually in YA books, the parents are an added plot burden. Stupid parents and their worrying about your location and safety. They’re rarely sought after for advice, rarely contacted at all actually and occasionally like to split apart their daughter’s – sometimes dodgy, come to think about it – relationship prematurely for extra romantic strain. But there’s none of that here in Radio Silence – nah, Frances’ mum joins in on the schemes and antics (and does a much better job because of her amazing power of adulting). Alice Oseman even spares a few lines to have Frances text her mum about what she’s doing and where she’s going. Her mum is so supportive and understanding of all of Frances’ decisions and gives some excellent advice. It’s great to read.
- And, finally – and I’m sorry for pulling out this card – the book is just so relatable. The characters are so different and they’re going through so many different things, I’m sure there’ll be at least one who everyone will connect with. I think this will be one of those books that I’ll be mentally returning to for future guidance.
So, there we go. Hopefully, this long raving of a post has left you at least a little excited about giving Radio Silence a try. At the very least, this is the first of many times I’ll be aggressively recommending this book.