Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Publishing Details: HarperCollins, January 2016
Back-of-the-Book Summary: Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City. Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence. When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does. But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?
I found Radio Silence online in a list of YA books featuring demisexual characters. I’m well past the target demographic for YA novels, but I still love them, and I was excited to have a whole list of YA books with characters like me at my fingertips. I got Radio Silence for Christmas and by December 26th, I was turning to the final page. It is heartfelt and honest, but like all books, it’s not without its flaws.
What I Liked:
Radio Silence is everything you want from a YA novel: it has all the right tropes, avoids all the wrong ones, and adds a little something of its own. The boy and girl don’t fall in love (not a spoiler, it’s on the inside cover); instead they work on a podcast together. Both main characters are LGBT+ and their sexualities are important but not dramatized or used in a “look at me, I’m so woke” kind of way. And finally, this book depicts the reality of being a teenager getting ready to go off to college.
Maybe it’s because I still feel like a teenager in many ways, but I love when the challenges teenagers face are taken seriously. These characters are all very stressed about going off to university, and it’s not a minor thing that comes up in passing every now and again. It’s more or less the premise of the entire book. Best of all, the different characters are stressed for different reasons and cope with it in different ways. Going to college has changed immensely in the last 10-15 years, and writers from older generations are, frankly, unequipped to represent it in a genuine way. Alice Oseman is a Millennial herself, and has experienced the unique pressures that come along with higher education nowadays, and her expertise on the subject shows. Her characters’ struggles feel real and worth writing about. She doesn’t insinuate that they’re being whiny, but she also doesn’t make them pointlessly nihilistic. She has created real people, living in the real world, with all of its complications and contradictions and nuances, and the result is a book you cannot put down.
What I Disliked:
Like I said before, one of the main reasons I decided to put this book on my Christmas list was because it features a demisexual character. I discovered the term demisexual a few years ago and it cleared up a lot of things about my sexuality. It was exciting, but since I don’t know anyone else who’s demisexual, and you don’t really see many canonically demisexual characters in any form of media, I didn’t exactly have anybody to relate to about it. So when I got this book, I was pumped to see a demisexual character in action.
Sadly, the word demisexual isn’t used until the very end of the book, and the character’s sexuality isn’t actually given much time in the story. It clearly affects their life in some pretty big ways, but we never see this clearly. It’s always kept on the periphery. Everything we hear about this character’s sexuality is heard through coincidence (while they thought another character was asleep or out of earshot, for example) and feels almost voyeuristic. However, like I said before, I generally think sexuality was handled very well in Radio Silence. It doesn’t feel tacked on or pointless, but it also isn’t about their sexuality. I may have put a little too much pressure on the book to be something it wasn’t meant to be. Still, even taking into account my own biases, I think it could have represented a little more directly.
You Might Like This Book If…
- …you love YA novels
- …you’re nervous about college
- …you want to read a talented, up-and-coming young author
- …you like fast but engaging reads
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