Ahmed Mayeesha Reza Agomoni
Radio Silence is about living your life for yourself and beautifully depicts how meeting society’s and parents’ expectations might feel like a burden that one carries around their shoulders for the entirety of their academic life.
We follow Frances Janvier, an Ethiopian-British high achieving teenager who is dead set on getting into a prestigious university that she has craved for as long as she can remember and believes that her future lies in academia. Throughout the book, Frances accompanies Aled Last, who is the creator of her favourite YouTube podcast, Universe City, that garners thousands of fans as we go on. Labeling Universe City as her “favourite YouTube podcast” would be an understatement because this is the thing that has been keeping her sane and true to her “quirky” self, which she successfully hides from the rest of her school friends.
Frances and Aled work together to make episodes of Universe City and soon, she understands that she and Aled are like two peas in a pod. Frances’ arc around wanting to be seen and her journey to university is amazing. Even though Aled is not the narrator, his parallel journey around his own abuse and depression is equally fascinating. While the focus of this book is the bond that Frances and Aled share and how they are dealing with academic pressure, one can really discern the depth of the other characters – Daniel Jun, Raine Sengupta, Carys Last, and the amount of thought put into each of their emotional journeys.
There is something that is too undisputedly millennial about this book. And it is not only the music references and the mention of memes, but the exploration of loss and detachment from the world, the parental abuse, feeling the need to revolve your life around academic success, just working and grinding to reach this particular goal and the desperate plea to have someone just listen is aptly portrayed in this book.
There is a diverse cast of characters and literally every lead character is queer. But it is not put in a way that is in your face and I love this book so much that I feel like I might not be doing it justice by mentioning that all of the main leads are queer, because some might think the author was trying too hard to be divergent when she really was not. It is very authentically expressed in the book that the characters just happen to have different sexual orientations. So, I am going to slide this crumpled 40 dollars across the table to you as a bribe to buy the book and a cup of tea to keep you extra warm and cozy.
The dialogue is organic rather than forced and the themes seem universally relatable. The platonic relationship between Frances and Aled, which is substantially established at the start, is so pure and genuine that my heart goes soft even thinking about it. For instance, my favourite dialogue from the book is and I quote,
-“And I’m platonically in love with you.”
-“That was literally the boy-girl version of ‘no homo’, but I appreciate the sentiment.”
Alice Oseman truly captures the essence of internet fandom—how it can be solicitous as well as malignant, and how it affects the creators’ lives along the way. A lot of the conflict was about academic pressure and how one feels like you have to fit in this mould that the society has handed to you. There was an undeniably unifying effect on Frances’ daily struggles, and weirdly enough, even though all of the characters had different obstacles to overcome, I could really perceive and relate to each of them. What is too beautiful about this book is, the message in it is universal. It tells you that it is okay to not feel like you have to live by the “societal norms” and to relish life as you deem fit.
I am going to give this book four and three quarters space blankets out of five space blankets from the warehouse. Holler at me ([email protected]) because I really need someone to fangirl with.
TW: suicide ideation, depression, emotional abuse and animal cruelty.
Agomoni has a bittersweet relationship with speaking Java and convincing her parents to watch soap operas and YouTube with her.