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Book Review: Radio Silence (Alice Oseman)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Pages: 400

Release Date: February 25th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

Review:

This was such a good read! I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it so much, and I was most pleasantly surprised.

I think what stood out most was the voice of our narrator, Frances. It was so real, I could fully believe she was an actual person talking to me and not just a character on the page. A lot of this is helped by modern references – talking about The Office and Tumblr etc, and I wonder if that will have an effect on its lastability (these references could be well out of date in a couple of years). That’s not really important, just something I was musing on.

There’s a great sense of diversity in this book, racially and sexually, and I love the fact that that’s not the point of the book: it’s not about being bisexual or mixed race, it just there in the characters, as this book reflects real life and the diversity you find there every day.

I really appreciated the lack of romance in this book. Frances states herself that it’s not that kind of book, she’s not going to fall in love with Aled, and I respected that. It would have been a different, more predictable book if she had, and I don’t think I would have liked it as much.

The themes of finding yourself and becoming comfortable in your own skin are typical ones to be found in YA, but it’s handled really skillfully here. I felt like I could relate to the situations facing the characters really well, despite no longer being in that kind of position myself: it just rang true with my teenage years, and I wish I’d had this book to read back then.

One of the most important messages in this book is to do with education and choices for your future. With two younger sisters in secondary school at the moment, I’ve seen the kind of stress they can be put under: I’ve seen my 15 year old sister in pieces over a test, because if she failed then she’d fail her A levels and not get into university and not get a good job. It’s horrible to see someone so young worrying about that kind of thing, but that’s what young people face these days. There’s an expectation now to go to university: we were taught in school that it was the path that would get you the best job. This book explores the idea that university isn’t for everyone, and not having a degree or good grades doesn’t mean you won’t get a good job.

That’s not to say that education isn’t important, or that university is bad. I went myself for an undergraduate and Masters degree, loved every moment of it and wouldn’t change a thing. But that path isn’t for everyone, and this book highlights this and the need to offer other options to people who maybe aren’t as academically focussed.

Slight rambly tangent there, but basically this book is awesome, and a perfect read for 13-18 year olds especially who are having to decide there futures right now.

4

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