“Hello. I hope somebody is listening.”
Radio Silence has been on my wishlist for ages, so I figured the time has come to pick it up. And wow was time right.
We follow Frances Janvier’s final school year. 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.
Frances is obsessed with Universe City, a YouTube podcast show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.
“Nobody knew who made the podcast, but it was the voice of the narrator that got me addicted to the show – it has a kind of softness. It makes you want to fall asleep. In the least weird way possible, it’s a bit like someone stroking your hair.”
That’s what I thought when I listened to my first podcast episode: it makes you want to fall asleep (in the best way possible).
Oh, and Frances is also mixed-race & bisexual.
This review contains *mild spoilers*.
When Frances meets Aled Last, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom.
“I never told anyone about Universe City,” he said, glancing back at me. “I thought they’d think I was weird.”
There were a hundred things I could have said in reply to that, but I just said:
Same here, too.
I also loved how they slowly became good friends, it’s one of my favorite things to read about in books:
“Just before he left, as we were standing in the doorway, I said:
“Where did you get your shoes? They’re so nice.”
He looked at me like I’d told him he’d won the lottery.
“ASOS,” he said.
“They’re …” He almost didn’t say it. “I know they’re weird. They were in the women’s section.”
“Oh. They don’t look like women’s shoes.” I looked at his feet. “They don’t look like men’s shoes either. They’re just shoes.” I looked back at him and smiled, not quite sure where I was going with this. He was staring at me, his expression now completely unreadable.
“I have a coat from Topman,” I continued. “And I tell you what, the men’s section of Primark is the best for Christmas jumpers.”
Yes! Thank you for addressing this in writing.
And for a second there I was troubled that this was going to become a love story, but I needn’t have worried.
“I just sort of want to say something before we continue.
You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.
I just wanted to say –
I felt so surprised (in a good way) when she addressed the reader. I even had that Robert De Niro moment:
But I just… I loved how well-developed and real the friendship between Frances and Aled was:
“Our friendship had become this:
(00:00) Frances Janvier
HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOPE YOU’RE FEELING PARTY AF
LOVE U LOADS U BEAUTIFUL MAN
CAN’T BELIEVE MY SMALL BUDDY IS A MAN NOW
(00:02) Aled Last
why are you tormenting me with cringe messages like this
(00:03) Frances Janvier
(00: 03) Aled Last
thank u tho luv u (✿♥‿♥)
(00:04) Frances Janvier”
THAT was cringe m8
(00:04) Aled Last
that was payback “
Literally cry-laughing over their messages.
Speaking of… the humor in this book was right up my alley.
“There was a huge Facebook event for the post-exams night happening at Johnny R’s on the same day, which everyone in sixth form had been invited to, but I didn’t really want to go. Firstly, everyone was just gonna get drunk, which I could do perfectly well by myself in my lounge while watching YouTube videos instead of having to worry about catching the last train home or avoiding sexual assault. Secondly, I hadn’t really spoken to any of my school friends apart from Raine very recently, and I think if we were in The Sims, our friendship bar would almost be back to nothing.”
I don’t know why, but that Sims reference made me crack up for days.
…On a more serious note, I went into this book thinking that Frances was asexual (not bisexual), so that was a mistake on my part. But Radio Silence talked about really important topics in such an inclusive way, I loved it.
“Like, it’s one of the reasons that I got so into Universe City in the first place. Because Radio falls in love with all sorts of people, boys and girls and other genders and … like, aliens and stuff.” I laughed and he smiled too.
“I think everyone’s a bit bored with boy-girl romances anyway,” he said. “I think the world’s had enough of those, to be honest.”
Also, the pop-culture references were written in such a smooth way!! There was talk of Harry Potter, Youtubers, Twitter (including tweets)… and again, the instant messages between Frances and Aled were hysterical.
Social media was just handled in a really well way, both the positive and the negative aspects. I mean, when some people in the fandom were acting like literal detectives trying to expose someone online, it was scary. Not gonna lie.
Messing with the privacy of a person who clearly wanted to remain anonymous? Not cool.
“It was disgusting. People who knew Aled in real life had taken stuff from his private Facebook. They’d listened in on my conversation with Jess and quoted me. What was this? Who did they think I was? A celebrity?”
I’m very glad Alice Oseman included this.
Also, on a completely unrelated note— can we take a minute to appreciate Raine? Because I loved it whenever she showed up. She just said whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. Incredible.
“Is that an ‘Oh my God you look absolutely ridiculous’?” I said, getting into the passenger seat, “because that’s an understandable reaction.”
“No, I mean I didn’t know you were so … pop punk. I thought I was gonna have to corrupt the nerdy one, but … you’re not actually a nerd, are you?”
She appeared to be being genuine.
“This is real, this is me,” I said.
She blinked. “Did you just quote Camp Rock at me? That’s not very pop punk.”
“I’ve gotta go my own way.”
“Okay, firstly, that’s High School Musical …”
Ha! She took my line about Camp Rock!!
Also, quoting old Disney Channel movies in books? Yes, please.
Truly though, Lorraine Sengupta had my heart because her lines were the absolute best. She’s a sunshine angel.
Oh, and as I mentioned before about asexuality… I was really glad that it did end up being included when Aled mentioned that he’s demisexual!
I pretty much adored everything about Radio Silence, and my only tiny (really tiny) complaint being that the word ‘literally’ was used one too many times for my liking. I enjoy using it too, but while reading I prefer seeing it in moderation.
Also, I just wanted to mention that this book had so many great recommendations for music artists (London Grammar, Nero, Madeon…). And yet I still somehow ended up listening to this next song on repeat because I’m obsessed with Phillipa Soo’s voice.
Every single time she sings “I wrote to the General a month ago,” a piece of my heart cracks.