Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

My Rating: 4 stars

This was my third book by Oseman, and I will admit I was a bit hesitant. I adore her comic series Heartstopper, but I had mixed feelings on Solitaire. Radio Silence sits somewhere between the two for me. Oseman’s biggest strength also happens to be the reason her novels are difficult for me: they are extremely realistic, sometimes painfully so. She truly captures the teenage experience. Frances is such a relatable narrator, and I also identified a lot with Aled and Daniel. They way they all interact with each other is so real, especially the miscommunications and arguments. Oseman is great at building relationships between characters, and I especially loved Frances and Aled’s friendship. However, I did find that this book brought up a lot of feelings I haven’t dealt with since high school, and that made it hard for me to read. I almost stopped part way through, but I’m glad I kept going. Even though the emotional parts hit you like a train, it’s an important book and one that I think could help a lot of people dealing the issues presented.

I loved the range of representation Oseman provides for race, sexuality, and mental illness. Frances is mixed race and bisexual. Daniel is Asian. There are several gay characters and an asexual character. The mental illness representation was what interested me the most and caused me to pick up the book. Neither are actually named within the story, but Oseman draws spot-on pictures of depression and school-related anxiety. And I loved that she addresses how harmful it can be for students to push themselves or be pushed by parents to excel at academics. University isn’t for everyone, and it was great to see a YA book dealing with that.

I had mixed feelings on how Universe City, the podcast Aled makes and Frances is obsessed with, was incorporated into the book. Within Frances’ narration, when she’s telling the reader about it or having a conversation about it with Aled, it works well. It’s an interesting plot device, and it’s always fun to see representations of fandom in books (and Oseman reminded me how toxic it can be–yikes). The problem for me came with the snippets of the podcast that are sometimes between chapters. They made no sense to me and ultimately slowed the novel down. I didn’t feel they really added anything important either. They’re just there.

My only other issue was the ending. I wanted a little more resolution for the major plotline. I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil it. It ties back to Oseman’s realism; it’s a realistic ending, one that probably happens in real life too often. But books are where I go to escape real life, so I would have liked a little more closure. It’s ultimately a small problem though.

Overall, Radio Silence is a realistic and excellent contemporary YA. Oseman’s characters are wonderfully, and she deals with difficult topics that need to be discussed in young adult literature.

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