What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.
But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken. Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…
Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness. Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
A YA coming of age read that tackles issues of identity, the pressure to succeed, diversity and freedom to choose, Radio Silence is a tour de force by the most exciting writer of her generation.
TL;DR: I had high expectations for this book but sadly, this didn’t exactly hit the mark for me. I found the characters compelling and I was rooting for them to figure things out but I simply didn’t connect with the story as much as I’d hoped to. I think if I had read this even in my early 20s it probably would’ve hit that much harder because I really appreciate the way AO addresses mental health and identity in their books and I think it’s something she excels at. I also love the way their characters are always so diverse and their stories are inclusive.
CW/TW: anxiety, depression, emotional and mental abuse by a parent, abandonment
Just like many others, I’m a huge fan of Heartstopper (I mean, who isn’t?) and when we first meet Aled in those books, my curiosity was instantly sparked. He’s shy but sweet and I wanted to know more so I was really excited to learn that he was in this story. There’s so much hype around AO’s books and I was so ready to love this one but sadly, and *slightly unpopular opinion time*, I just didn’t connect with it as much as I thought I would. I buddy read this with Leslie and both of us felt a little disappointed that we didn’t enjoy it more—I’m sure no one is more disappointed than us because we were so excited about it!
“I wonder- if nobody is listening to my voice, am I making any sound at all?”
I found Frances to be a compelling character. Her schoolmates only know her as the serious and studious head girl but outside of school she’s quirky, bold, a passionate artist, and loves this YouTube series called Universe City. She’s been working her whole life towards getting into Cambridge because she believes that’s what she needs to do to succeed in life but she starts questioning whether it’s what she really wants the closer it gets to the interview. Frances wasn’t difficult to root for and she grows a lot throughout the story as she starts to feel more confident in her skin but what I missed was the emotional connection with her story. I don’t know whether that’s down to the simplicity of the writing but there was a disconnect for me that made it hard to feel invested in the story.
Aled was a secondary character but certainly just as important as Frances and he was key to part of her growth. I loved the friendship that developed between them and I was really glad that there was no romance in this. Not only can you feel how passionate they both are about Universe City but it was so great to see how they were able to be their true selves together. They were almost the same person and it was such a heartwarming, albeit fragile, friendship. Aled was going through so much and I felt his pain and Frances’ helplessness and panic in dealing with the situation. I loved how Frances did step up but I wished that Aled’s home situation had been better resolved or handled. I’m glad it was a “happy” ending but without giving anything away, I felt the ending was just too simplistic and it felt a little anticlimactic.
“I wonder sometimes whether you’ve exploded already, like a star, and what I’m seeing you is three million years into the past, and you’re not here anyore. How can we be together here, now, when you are so far away. When you are so far ago? I’m shouting so loudly, but you never turn around to see me. Perhaps it is I who have already exploded. Either way, we are going to bring beautiful things into the universe.”
Do I still feel like this is a book younger me would’ve loved? Absolutely! I think it’s well-written, simplistic and talks about issues teenagers face in a very relatable way, not to mention AO tackles the topics of mental health (anxiety, depression), parental abuse, identity, and societal and parental expectations very well.
Have you read Radio Silence or is it on your TBR?