Title: Radio Silence
Author: Alice Oseman
Review copy: Library loan
Availability: On shelves now
Summary: 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—we don’t.
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?
Review: They don’t fall in love. This was one of the things I appreciated about Radio Silence. Aled and Frances share a love for the podcast Universe City. They are both creative and enjoy spending time together, but not in a romantic way. Frances’ mother asks if there is something more happening, but they don’t want or need that type of relationship with each other. The book does include some couples, but romance isn’t the focus for the most part. I loved the time spent getting to know the characters and seeing their friendships develop.
From the U.S. cover, you wouldn’t know it, but Frances is mixed-race with a white mother and an Ethiopian father. Frances doesn’t know much about her Ethiopian culture and wishes that was different. That isn’t something explored very deeply, but it’s part of her story.
Another aspect of the story is the issue of expectations around university attendance. Frances, Aled, and their friend Daniel are all on a trajectory leading directly to university. This is something Frances has been highly focused on for years without questioning the plan. As a teacher, I know we encourage students to think about college even in elementary school. This story challenged that expectation in many ways. It also challenged the assumption that academics trump the arts because one will not get you money in the end.
Finally, Frances and Aled both have mothers who are active in their lives. Frances has a mother who encourages independence and experimentation and Aled has one who is quite the opposite. I’m always looking for adults in young adult books who care for teens and treat them with respect so I was happy to meet one of these moms. She also has a unicorn onesie and I have to say that made me smile.
Recommendation: Get it soon especially if you enjoy books about relationships and finding your path. Also, if you like a bit of quirky in your novels. There’s quite a good helping of quirky.
Interview with Alice Oseman on Rich in Color
Alice Oseman Reads Radio Silence