Radio Silence - Alice Oseman

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.

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.


"Hello. I hope somebody is listening...."

This is how each episode of Universe City begins, and it is also the opening line of Radio Silence, and intriguing, character-driven exploration of the broken education system and the potentially dangerous aspects of fandom culture. Frances narrates the events which occur over the final years of Frances's secondary education as she prepares for and hopes to get into the university of her dreams. But things don't go entirely smoothly. Sure, Frances gets her high grades, as does Aled, but at the same time, Frances starts to doubt her school self vs her new-found and more outgoing self.

As the two traverse that oh-so-rocky pathway from the teenage years to adulthood, they make deeper connections with those around them, and discover new friendships and familial connections that they didn't have previously. After Aled's connection to Universe City becomes public knowledge, he withdraws, and moving to college, he seems to disappear entirely, leaving Daniel, Frances, and Aled's estranged sister wondering what the future holds for them all.

I love the subtle explorations of (a)sexuality within the this book (I don't think I've seen demisexuality even noted in a YA book before this), and I think the examination of the education system is quite fascinating. Oseman reveals the dangers in relying only on grades, and being motivated only by the desire to attend university without allowing young people to look inside at their own motivations and desires. Aled's mother is, perhaps to an extreme we don't always see, the epitome of the parent who refuses to see anything beyond academic achievement.

I know this post isn't the clearest, and perhaps that's because there is so much happening in the novel. Characters a fully developed and their various motivations are explored in great depth. The fan culture behind Universe City will appeal to fans of Welcome to Night Vale and the main arc will definitely appeal to those looking for a well-developed story with a good share of melodrama to up the ante.

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