Book review · contemporary · Young adult

Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

25322449Radio Silence is a standalone contemporary book.

I liked this for what it wasn’t.
I liked that it was about a girl and a boy who end up being very close but develop no romantic feelings. I liked that it wasn’t a romance. I liked that it wasn’t the kind of contemporary that glosses over schoolwork. I liked that it wasn’t one of those books with an all-white, all-straight cast. I liked that it incorporated social media in a realistic way, for once.
But I already knew this book wasn’t any of these things – it’s the reason I read it in the first place. And it wasn’t anything more than not being these things, which was really disappointing. Trope subversion alone doesn’t make a book.

I didn’t actually like anything about this. I probably should have. I mean, this seemed what I had been looking for in contemporary. The problem was, I didn’t care about anything in here.
Not the characters, not the (really not-there, for an almost 500-page book) plot, not the podcast or the friendships – actually, the way Frances’ internal monologue talked about Aled creeped me out sometimes. I love creepy, but this clearly wasn’t intended to be that way.

This was also very… real. I don’t mean realistic, because I don’t know what realistic looks like in the UK and my life is in no way similar to Frances’ (now I feel like this is one of those contemporary books whose selling point is being relatable and those never work for me because they just aren’t). With “real” I mean that the interactions between the characters were just like real life, really awkward and embarrassing. I am one of those people who feels secondhand embarrassment a lot, and it’s difficult to like a book when you have to put it down every three lines because you’re cringing so much.

I don’t know whether I’m in a slump or I’m just choosing the wrong books, but I’m tired of being disappointed so often. I wanted to love this, and I didn’t. I didn’t hate it either. It was just there, and I had almost no motivation to keep reading. I often had to force myself.

I usually write a paragraph about the characters and what I thought of them, but this time I have no opinions I haven’t already said, which is… not a good sign when the book is character-driven and almost 500 pages. I expected to love them and I felt nothing.
There’s a conversation that bothered me because of some lines that were kind of aphobic, but while they aren’t explicitly called out, by the end the character who said them realizes they were wrong.

The writing wasn’t bad, but I had no sense of setting, which meant that in my head half of the time the characters were floating in blank space. The only thing I know is that the UK school system is a bad idea and sometimes I love being Italian.

I don’t actually think this is a bad book. I do think the hype was one of the reasons I didn’t love this, but mine is an unpopular opinion.
If you want a story about friendships and fandom but with queer teens, try this. You’ll probably love it.

My rating: ★★¼

3 thoughts on “Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

  1. I’m sorry this disappointed you! I’d forgotten it’s nearly 500 pages long – that sound way too long for the story, but I didn’t think that while reading it. You don’t have to answer this, I’m just curious so I have to ask, what’s the Italian school system like? I’ve read a few books set in Italy with characters who are university students, but none about younger people in schools.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t sum it up in a comment but here are the main differences between Italian and US/UK school systems:
      • our high school lasts five years, not four
      • competitiveness is actively discouraged and considered toxic for the school environment (I agree). There’s no such thing as the best student in the class or valedictorians.
      • this also means that when someone is struggling, their friends will likely try to help them cheat the test. I’ve never seen this in American YA so I assume it isn’t as much a thing.
      • once you’ve chosen your school – the most common options can be translated more or less as “classical school” (usual subjects + Greek), “science school” (usual subjects + more physics and math) or “language school” (usual subjects + a language that is not Italian, English or Latin, which are more or less mandatory everywhere) – you can’t choose which subjects/classes to attend. Everyone does the same things.
      • extracurriculars/credits either aren’t a thing or count nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! That’s very informative! I’m so curious about how things work in different countries. It sounds like the Italian system is more like the Norwegian (where I’m from) than the U.K one is. Especially in attitude, competitiveness is discourage here as well and there aren’t extracurriculars either.

        Liked by 1 person

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