book review · books · shanti

So real: Radio Silence

Radio Silence was, in my opinion, a very relatable book. Frances, the main character, basically has a ‘school’ personality, and a real personality. I feel like most people at my school just see me as a study machine/nerdy book reader, when I’m really so much more that that, which made this special to read. It’s enjoyable for the friendship aspect, the nuances, and the examination of school.

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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.

The one problem I had with this book is that it was a little excessively dramatic at the end, sort of like Solitaire, which is probably symbolic of internal angst. The villain of the story was also really evil which again wasn’t very realistic imo, given that the rest of the story is so real.
The friendships are the heart of this novel, and that’s what really drew me. There’s this section in the middle of Radio Silence when the two main characters have made friends and its almost like a montage of them doing fun friendy stuff and I really loved that. The facebook chats, the awkward silences, the non-awkward silences, the discovering that somebody isn’t who you thought they were—all of that matched in some ways my own experience, and was so perfect, and was absolutely my favourite part of the book. The main friendship is Frances and Aled, but we also have Frances and Carys (in flashback things), Frances and Raine, Frances and Daniel, and Daniel and Aled. All of these friendships are nuanced and complicated, yet still positive, and that felt so valuable. This is also not a love story, just like the tagline for solitaire, and it’s trying hard not to be a love story, which is fine, interesting even.
This is also a story about school. How grades can be comforting; how they can seem like everything. About the pressure to go to university, and everyone around you’s refusal to contemplate other options. About how nothing is easy, even if you want it to be, and academics shouldn’t be everything but they are. This resonated so much with me. I do intend to go to university, and I think I’ll like it, but I go to a high school that calls itself a ‘college prepatory’ school and I just wish that other options, for people who university might not be right for, were talked about a bit more. As the story goes on, Frances’s relationship to the idea of university evolves, which was really interesting. Also the stuff about your school personality being different to your real personality totally fit with my experience.
This is a realistic story. It’s not ‘happy clappy’. It doesn’t end perfectly. It’s like real life, where things never work as well as they do in your imagination, and sometimes you can’t help the people you love. Sometimes contemporary YA is so perfect, so sunshiny, that it loses it’s appeal, and sometimes it’s just dark and depressing, but Radio Silence balances these aspects, which makes it work, because (at least if you’re a relatively privileged teenager like me) it’s like you’re reading about yourself. It also has these aspects of fandom/being a fan, which I really liked.
Radio Silence isn’t perfect, but it’s made of the stuff of life (though that sounds pretentious): flawed people, flawed relationships, mistakes, and through it all, a thread of joy. I’m so glad I read it.

What are some books with a big internet presence? Do you think that we need more platonic friendships? And have you read Radio Silence? tell me in the comments!

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16 thoughts on “So real: Radio Silence

  1. AHHH I LOVED THIS ONE! It was my last read of 2016 and it was like such a good note to finish on. ❤ I really related to all the internet geeking out and like the characters actually felt like real people?!? Which was brilliant. I loved Aled but he also broke my heart poor smol tragic creature. And Frances was just so awesome and I loved her nerdiness. Basically I had zero downsides with it, haha, except it was very long. And I'm impatient. I want to know all the things. *stamps foot* How dare you be so long and keep me in suspense, book.😂

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    1. It is such a great book! Actually, I had kind of been vacillating about whether to read it or not, and it was your review which pushed me over the edge, so you’re responsible for this one hah. I loved how it portrayed fandom and Aled was just tragic. It was long, but I enjoyed it. Silly book, keeping Cait waiting. You can’t hold back a queen.

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  2. This sounds like a really cool book! I do enjoy a good romance, but it would be nice to read a book based on friendships instead, and from what you said about the complexities between school personality and real personality, it would be a really interesting and personal read. Thanks for the recommendation! 😀

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    1. Yeah, I just feel like this book understood me, y’know, which is a great feeling. I do love romance too, but friendship is equally important. You should read it!

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  3. This sounds like an awesome mix of murder mystery with slow, burning realistic lit-type relationships, and I’m completely down for that! I can see the non-realism of the ending getting to me too, but I love stories about great friendships, so I guess we’ll see. The school personalities thing really speaks to me as well. I think you did a great job of summarizing how school can quickly become everything, and I’m interested to see how they’ll portray that in Radio Silence.

    Thanks for stopping by The Silver Words!

    – Eli @ The Silver Words

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    1. Well there isn’t any murder or mystery (did I mess up in my review?) though the first book of this author, Solitaire, definitely has those things. The friendship is so lovely, and I liked that it talked about different ways to talk about school and university options. Thanks for commenting back!

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  4. I’ve heard so many great things about this book and your review just makes me want to read it even more! Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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  5. I feel this so much! Like, when I joined the dance group at school, someone said “Opal knows how to have fun??”, because I’m usually so focused on study. This sounds like a book I’d really connect with as well.

    I also enjoyed “Solitaire”, so I’m adding this one to my tbr 🙂

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    1. I just feel like people aren’t going to remember my awesome sense of style, or amazing leadership of the newspaper (slightly joking) because I have a reputation as being smart. Solitaire is also very good at capturing teenagers, and I think you’d like this!

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  6. Oh I’ve heard about this book and I’ve seen in it around the place, but I knew really knew what it was about. This sounds quite a nice read though! I completely relate to the ‘shool personality’ idea…I think we’re all different in school when we’re with our friends, than we we’re at home with our family. It’s strange hahaha.

    Great review! Good job.
    -Sam. x

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