Are you feeling lost and confused about your place in the world? Wondering as to how you’ll ever make it, not even to graduation, but just to your next semester? Then read "Radio Silence" by Alice Oseman, the perfect novel for you.
The novel follows two neighbors turned friends, Frances and Aled, as they balance the complications of finishing high school and entering college, relationships—of the romantic, platonic and familial varieties—and the ever-growing popularity of Aled’s podcast series "Universe City". Though the novel focuses on Frances finishing her high school years, as well as applying to college, much of the book also centers its attention on Aled entering his first year of university. The two consistently struggle to find their voices in a world that keeps insisting on keeping them quiet and in line, as well as finding their sense of self.
The book also has a level of mystery to it as well for any fans of that genre, since a portion of Aled’s podcast, "Universe City", features a section called “Letters to February”, which are nonsensical parts of the podcast dedicated to an unknown character known as February Friday. The fanbase for "Universe City" has a variety of theories, however, none of them turn out to be true. At this same time, Frances is trying to figure out what happened to her old friend Carys, Aled’s twin sister, who ran away a few years before the novel began.
The first time I read "Radio Silence", which I read in just about a day, I was in a similar boat as Frances. I was stressed about my college applications and getting into a good school, as well as what I wanted to do with my life. I found myself able to connect with Frances’ stress and need to be the best I could in order to keep my family happy and get into every school I could just to say I did.
However, during my most recent reread this past fall, I used the audiobook rather than reading the physical copy. The audiobook allowed me to slow down and connect with the characters a bit more, rather than reading purely to consume content. This time, I found myself connecting with Aled and his feelings. The dread and stress about school, the burnout, the joy of creating something for people to enjoy—and the stress of it as well.
With its themes of self discovery and diverse cast of characters, "Radio Silence" is the perfect book for a college student to read. Frances and Aled are both LGBTQ+—Frances is bisexual, and Aled is demisexual—and Frances is half Ethiopian. Many other characters are people of color as well, however, these identities are not the sole defining characteristic of these characters. Frances talks a bit about her identity, though, and feeling as though she wasn’t Ethiopian enough to fully identify as such. She mentions her last name—Janvier, which was French, rather than her father’s Ethiopian last name Mengesha—her white mother being seen as Frances’ babysitter or nanny, and being seen as other races such as Indian rather than her own identity, which many mixed-raced members of the UMass Boston community can most likely relate to.
Many of these characters, or siblings of these characters, also carry over into Oseman’s other works, namely her most famous work, the "Heartstopper" graphic novel series.
"Radio Silence" by Alice Oseman is available from the Boston Public Library as an audiobook as well as a physical copy, and on Amazon and from other book-selling websites.