Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Content Warnings: Emotional abuse, child abuse, depression, performance anxiety, death of a dog
If you enjoy books that have queer protagonists, a whole lot of wit, even more heart, media elements and capture the essence of being a nerdy, overachieving teen…well, you’re going to love this book. Alice Oseman’s newest YA novel Radio Silence is the quirky, poignant and unforgettable story of two British teens, Frances Janvier and Alex Last, who make a podcast together. This is one of those books that I’ve read and its characters and messages have stayed with me. There’s mystery. There’s a touch of romance. There’s a lot of anxiety and angst. Overall, this is a book that brims over with hope. Also, it’s a boy-girl friendship book where there’s no romance. Huzzah!
Let’s start off with the representation in this book. There is bisexual and demisexual (on the page!! My only complaint is that it didn’t appear sooner in the story, especially since I picked up on what was going on pretty early in) representation. I really like the way that the characters discuss their sexuality and that they are given the agency to describe how they identify and what that means to them in the story. Francis is also a WoC. Finally there is representation of depressive symptoms in the book that felt quite strong, especially since they are related to the anxiety and difficulty of transitioning to college, which is a topic I wish was more present in YA.
Central to the plot of Radio Silence is the podcast Universe City, in which an androgynous protagonist is searching for meanping in an unforgiving world. I loved the parts of the book that showed the characters filming the podcast, how they discussed and developed the storyline of the show, the representation of the online fandom of the podcast and discovering what the podcast meant to the character who created it. I’m being intentionally vague in discussing the details so as to be as spoiler-free as possible. I want y’all to enjoy every twist and turn like I did.
Another aspect of this book that I really liked was the setting. The book is set in a small Wnglish town but the characters travel to numerous larger towns and cities, including London. I really enjoyed getting to read a book set somewhere else in the world. I was a little confused by how their school system worked because I’m not familiar with the British educational system, but it was easy to catch on.
I also really loved the quirkiness and preoccupation of the two main characters with grades and school work. This was the first time I saw the part of my teenage self that would stress herself out over studying to the point of literal insanity in a book and it was great. Francis and Alex are also super nerdy and I loved the descriptions of how they became friends through their shared neediness. Its part of what made these characters so unforgettable. There’s also a message about how multiple paths can lead to success in this book, which I think is important for teens who live in a world where getting good grades and then going to and succeeding in a specific type of college in a specific type of program is presented as the best possible option and they are somehow lesser than if they don’t achieve that, which is absolute fucking bullshit.
My biggest issue with this book was its length. Its long for a contemporary and I’m a fan of boos that are pretty quickly paced. This book seemed to drag on for me and it felt like it took me forever to finish it, which ultimately took away some of the joy I had from the story. Still, its a solid read and I really enjoyed the fun, twisty, heartbreaking story. It is definitely a book that I am going to be recommending for a while.