Where to start with Radio Silence? I loved this book more than expected, I chose to read it because while it had an interesting premise anyway it won the 2017 Inky award (young adults voting for their best books of the year, as chosen by young adults). But I didn’t expect to love it. I really enjoyed the plot, the characters, the setting and the style. The presentation is brilliant. Social networking plays a major role and the displays of the varying sns for the different platforms and keeping a form of the native feel. Even the YouTube posts feel right. The YouTube posts also become one of the most valuable writing assets, adding a perspective that was otherwise inaccessible. The writing style is a bit unusual compared to my usual. It gives what you need as you need whole maintain an air of mystery. It strikes me as an elegant woman.
Radio Silence follows Frances and her friends as they go through that pivotal final year of high school/ the first year of university. Frances is a clever and bookish student who has dreamt of going to Cambridge since childhood, to the world her life is defined by her academic accomplishments. She has a secret geek/fandom/artsy side that she doesn’t allow the world to see for fear. Aled is smart, academic, shy and secretive. The runner of soon to be hit podcast Universe City. There is more to his life and Universe City than meets the eye. He is a brilliantly multifaceted character who changes a lot through the book. The book follows them and others as they come to terms with who they are and what they want while completing with ghosts of the past, pressure from others and their own self-doubt.
There is an astounding amount of diversity in this book. From ethnic and cultural (the protagonist is British-Ethiopian, one of her friends is Indian, another Korean) to sexual (bisexual, gay, lesbian, demisexual) to socioeconomic (none are homeless but there is a range of situations). (view spoiler)When discussing sexuality Radio Silence is modern like it doesn’t think much of the topic, it just another part of the characters self. In some way, it treats Frances’ geek girl side with more reverence than her bisexuality. The sexual revel of Frances is smart. Simple. To the point. No flowery moment. And it's not the root moment it is just her explaining something else that happened. The sexuality of others is not quite as insignificant but for plot reasons, it can’t be and demi’s often don’t understand themselves what is going on. One of the characters within the fictional universe of Universe City is agender and which prompts some important discussion about gender too.
This is a book that I would recommend to library staff working with young adults, young adults themselves and anyone in a fandom. Because for those in a fandom there are some very relatable moments in here. For some young adults, this could be a mirror a way for someone who can’t usually find themselves in a book to see a bit of themselves in Frances. For the outgoing types, it is a window to another world, running parallel to theirs. If it looks even remotely appealing to you try it, it is a stunning book.
Radio Silence is a story with many layers to it. You're initially lead to believe it's a story about a girl who gets to work on her favourite podcast, which is (secretly) ran by the boy who lives across from her. But the story goes much deeper than that.
A big part of the story is child abuse. Aled deals with it a lot, in a more emotional sense. He's put himself under a lot of pressure to get into university and also wants to keep his podcast a secret. The only person who knew was his best friend/sort of boyfriend, Daniel. So Frances figuring out it's him was hard on him but also lead to them developing a close friendship. Friendships between male and female characters in YA are rare and this book makes a point that they're friends. It does subtly flip tropes on its head, as in most YA the book would've ended with them as a couple. Instead, Aled has a relationship with Daniel, and is demisexual, while Frances had a crush on his twin sister, Carys. Carys herself is missing and this is connected to the abuse she faced from her mother.
This book also had a unique aspect to it, that being telling the reader it's okay if they don't get into, or even want to go to, university. It doesn't hammer in that uni's worthless, more so that if you don't want to go, then you don't have to. Especially since it lead to multiple character's stress. That's a unique message you don't see but is a very important one.
Frances also has a close relationship with her mother. Parents are another thing ignored in YA but her mother was very present throughout the book. Although her father isn't part of the book at all.
Overall, Radio Silence is a book that hooks you right in, with intriguing characters and a compelling storyline.