Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Welcome to Night Vale meets teenage reality.

Publication Date: 25th February 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s

Radio Silence is one of the best books I’ve read this year, simply by virtue of how liberating it is. Every fear I think I ever had as an eighteen-year-old is voiced beautifully, and softly, honestly, laid to rest. The characters are complete, the perfect balance of simple concerns and life-changing ones. The surprising and improbable is blended with the real to recreate a brilliant portrait of the final two years of school.

The writing is fluent and comfortable, treating the reader as an equal with no need of overexplanation and simplification. The narration is conversational, with interspersed ‘transcripts’ from the Universe City podcast, a central feature of the novel, from which the character of Radio Silence comes. As a fan of Welcome to Night Vale, I could definitely see how Oseman had been inspired by it, as she notes in the acknowledgements. Dark and queer – in all the senses – Universe City acts as a ‘gothic double’ to the characters’ lives, the playground for unvoiced fears.

Oseman deals with a lot of heavy issues which are preoccupying young adults more and more: sexuality, gender, race and the influence of privilege. However, she achieves what many other writers have conspicuously failed to. None of these issues are shoehorned in to prove a point about teenagers, or to fashionably throw a minority into the mix. Oseman recreates the confused experience of actually determining identity, and by writing it so fluently she does these causes the best service. Her characters are not defined by these characteristics alone, they are fully rounded people for whom the above are just part – if significant – of their persons.

Radio Silence is an incredible novel and I recommend it is forced upon every young person you know, especially if they’re a bit nerdy and a bit scared of their future. It’s the kind of book I wish I’d read, and that I read now well into the early hours, just constantly agreeing with the story. Trying to explain what this book is “about” I cannot do it justice. It’s about podcasting, studying, being yourself, coping with abuse, dealing with friendship, fear of affection and fear of rejection. Just read it, and you’ll understand what I mean.

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