nosaferplace Book Club: Radio Silence (David Owen - Guest Post)

Radio Silence
Author: Alice Oseman
Publisher: Harper Collins
Read why Dave chose Radio Silence as his nosaferplace Book Club pick here:

For 18 months I have been recommending Radio Silence by Alice Oseman to anybody who will listen (and to the fools who won't, I can be very persistent). It's a book that has all the makings of a cult classic: it enjoys a stellar reputation within the YA community, particularly with other authors; Alice herself has a small legion of incredibly committed fans; it has been unjustly overlooked for the vast majority of awards and accolades. Anybody with any sense knows it's a masterpiece, and twenty years from now everybody else will agree.  
My job here is to explain why I love Radio Silence, but it's something I find difficult to put into words (a real cop out coming from a writer, I know), so let me buy some time with a quick synopsis. The book follows Frances Janvier, who has been trained to believe that studying hard and getting into a top-level university is the most important thing in the world, regardless of whether she actually wants it or not. It's only when she meets Aled Last, and discovers he's the creator of her favourite podcast, that she discovers the power of being herself. But achieving that freedom won't be easy...
There's so much to like about Radio Silence. Alice has an incredible knack for creating characters that you want to be your best friends (the success of her ongoing web comic Heartstopper, which follows characters from her debut novel Solitaire, is testament to her characters' enduring appeal), and it's a remarkable thing that you like Frances because of her cynical outlook bordering on existential crisis rather than despite it. Aled, shy and troubled, can be frustrating, but really he's a character you want to crack open so you can work out how to make him happy.
The supporting cast is similarly complex and likeable (Frances' mum being a particular favourite) and, importantly, diverse, featuring asexual and demisexual representation on the page. It's patronising of me to praise a YA book because the author herself is young, but unlike so many crusty old adults like me writing YA, Alice is an actual young person, and that means the themes of loneliness and identity, the pressure put on young people to succeed in the ways considered valuable to society, are handled with such empathy and feel so authentic.
I think the reason I really struggle to coherently explain why I love Radio Silence is that it feels like no other book. Its loneliness, its existential angst, are a tangible thing. Its hope and its love fill your heart. It manages to feel romantic without really featuring any kind of traditional romance at all.
This might be why its covers in different territories feature such varied imagery, each one an attempt to capture the book's indescribable essence. It's the US cover that comes closest: an empty road, car headlights cutting the title out of the night, the tagline taken from Frances' favourite podcast: Hello. I hope somebody is listening.


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