Release date: March 28, 2017 (for this edition)
Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying.
Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As.
You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl.
They don’t. They make a podcast.
In a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio silence?
Radio Silence is a book that should probably be a must-read for teens everywhere – it would speak to them. The premise of the novel is a coming-of-age story about parental and societal expectations, moving forward in life, deciding your options and doing what you love. For me, this hit a bit close to home, and I felt myself connecting to it so much, despite me not being a teen anymore. I don’t know what it exactly was – maybe the plenty of pop culture references, the fact that the podcast, Universe City is like Welcome to Night Vale (which also gets multiple shoutouts in the book), the whole fandom and Tumblr experience so realistic (and of course it would be, since the author is fairly regular and interactive with fans on her Tumblr) – but I couldn’t help but be absorbed but also be there in this world.
Frances always thought that since she is a good student, the only thing for her to do is to continue on to university and job and so on and so forth. Aled is similar in that he is also a great student, but he is not interested in all that. His life is his podcast that he creates, but his mother wants to fit him into her mold. Frances’ mother, on the other hand, gives her daughter every independence and lets her make her own decisions. Despite their vastly different home circumstances, the fact remains that even if they are great students on paper, it doesn’t mean that is what they like doing. As Frances points out, ‘what else is there to do?’, it is about the kids knowing and acknowledging that there is something beyond book smarts.
Sidebar here – The millennial generation has often been brainwashed with the ‘you have to do your best or else you are a failure’ mentality since childhood, and the mounting pressures of getting into the top college/university whether or not you are interested in doing those courses is something that is repetitively discussed but often ignored. Oseman brings up this nicely in the contrasting examples of Frances and Aled – both not meant for traditional academic successes but feeling like that is their only way forward in life; like, all this effort until now has to go somewhere, right?
Also, I loved how the author develops their relationship; they have such a wholesome platonic friendship and it is given such good build-up – more than I’ve seen in romantic relationships in some YA books (including Solitaire, if I may say so). Seriously, we need more books that give equal importance to solid friendship and avoid romantic subplots sometimes. Also I loved this particular quote –
I couldn’t quite believe how much I seriously loved Aled Last, even if it wasn’t in the ideal way that would make it socially acceptable for us to live together until we die.
The book also has some great rep for bisexuality, demi-sexuality and homosexuality, without need for a coming-out arc. Some characters from Solitaire make brief appearances, too, but it is mostly separate from the that book and is largely without continuity.
Now, the only things I disliked about the book was the voice and the pace in the first half. In Solitaire, my main issue was with the pacing and the voice style – here the writing was improved upon that you could connect with the characters, but Frances comes across as much younger (11-12) than the 17 she is posing as. Her narration throughout the first half was like reading a pre-teen’s diary – mindlessly droning on about classes and stuff, and it was only in the second half that I felt the voice changed, and improved. These issues aside, it was otherwise a great book and I would recommend it for all readers, but teens especially.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Dark Horse Manga, via Edelweiss.