Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: February 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Plot: 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 read this book in just over a day. I could not stop, I did not want to stop, despite me having a strange relationship with the themes.
I went to university. I fucking loved university. I hate to say it was the best years of my life, because I’m only 23, and I’d hate to have peaked between the ages of 18-21. But honestly, I came out of my shell. I did a degree that I adored, I met people who I’d become friends with for life, I grew as an independent person, living away from my parents, learning a routine and forming new opinions. I became more of an adult, and now I have a degree that I’m so proud of.
In this book, university is literally Hell. But I understand in so many ways.
The education system is flawed. Instead of working to help children become upstanding members of society, teachers are forced to teach ‘the curriculum’, a strange and sadistic game of memory, pointless, detailed trivia, and stressful and timed exams that test how good you are at remembering a specific line in a Shakespeare play that you had no interest in in the first place.
I did pretty well at school, I got average GCSEs and good enough ALevels. I didn’t excel, but I didn’t drown either. I like studying, I like answering questions where I get to talk about the themes of a book, or discuss psychologist’s theory on Schizophrenia. But, as I grew older, information that was drummed into me slowly faded away, and I still think to myself, what was the point in all of it?
Radio Silence is the book for students who have absolutely no idea what they want to do with their life, and that’s fine.You have to go to school, but the future? It isn’t written yet, and there are more possibilities than you can think of. You don’t NEED a degree, despite what you’re teachers tell you. You don’t have to decide what you will be doing when you’re 40 during your Year 9 options evening. You’re 14 years old! How the Hell should you know??
School is supposed to be a time of growth, where you learn to interact with others, and are taught the basics of life 101. I’m 23 and I still don’t know how insurance works. At university, when looking at renting a house in second year, we were fleeced because we didn’t know what our ‘price range’ was, or how the property market worked. There are some schools, named ‘alternative schools’ in the UK, that offer something more than the curriculum. You decide what you want to learn, and if you’re interested, they will take you into specifics, guide it into a career for you. If you don’t fancy it, they let you have free time, they let you explore other options. And, if you come out with qualifications, fine! If you don’t, also fine!
Anyway, let’s talk about the book a bit. Already, this review is super long.
All of the characters in this book are spun from gold. It’s hard to write teenagers, despite so many twenty-something/thirty-something authors doing it. And that’s great, but RS lives and breathes teenage life. I may not relate to having Tumblr or YT when I was at school. But hey, we all had some form of social media during this digital age, and mine was Bebo, Livejournal, and MSN. But, I remember always texting back “Haha yeah.”, which is so prevalent in RS that it’s actually hilarious. I swear it’s the most used phrase in the teenage dialect. Because teenagers have trouble saying what they mean, so “it’s fine” and “yeah probs” and “idk lol” are so popular and truthful in teenage years, that long philosophical sentences that are for some reason used in other teenage books just sound so…silly.
So, yeah, THE CHARACTERS. All beautiful and well rounded and developed, even ones that aren’t there for most of the book. And the DIVERSITY. So many sexualities are represented (by name as well!) that I got so excited, but also thankful. Teenagers are learning about themselves in so many different ways, and sexuality is one of them. I’m so happy that words that I NEVER see in books were there, basic ones like ‘bisexual’ and ‘asexual’. I can’t believe this is the first book where I’ve read the word ‘asexual’. Ridiculous, really.
And just, friendships! Some are romantic, some aren’t, and it’s so important and heartfelt to see that SOME PEOPLE DON’T FALL IN LOVE. They’re friends, best friends even, and they’re a boy and a girl? But…they DON’T fall in love? They DON’T belong together? No. But what they have is so strong and passionate, that it doesn’t need romance. It transcends it.
I just need you to read this book, regardless of what age you are. Whether you’re a student, a parent of a student, a teacher, or even like me, not anywhere near the education system anymore. You will relate and you will feel. Because you’ve been there, we’ve all been there.