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Book Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Publisher’s description

radioFrom critically acclaimed author Alice Oseman comes a smartly crafted contemporary YA novel, perfect for readers who love Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. This is an utterly captivating and authentic new teen novel from the author of Solitaire, which VOYA said “could put her among the great young adult fiction authors.”

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As.

You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl.

They don’t. They make a podcast.

In a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio silence?

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I’ll be honest: it took me a while to get into this story. I spent a few days picking it up and finding my mind wandering, so putting it down and working on something else instead. BUT, once I got roped in, I got ROPED IN. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a mystery, but it has elements of a mystery, and that’s what propelled me forward.

 

The summary up there doesn’t do the best job of making this sound appealing (although, yes please to more books about main character best friends who seem like they might fall in love but don’t, and yes please to stories about podcasts). It’s not just that Aled and Frances make a podcast together (think Welcome to Night Vale)—it’s that they make a VERY popular podcast, with a large fandom, and, as creators, stay shrouded in mystery for a long time. The premise of their podcast (which Aled starts and Frances joins eventually) is a student is sending out SOS messages from a futuristic university that they’re trapped inside of. The student goes by Radio Silence and is agender. The podcast grows in popularity, but when word gets out who is behind it, things really begin to fall apart quickly. Aled and Frances have an argument and drift apart (or rather, Aled bails on Frances and refuses to answer her calls etc). It becomes clear that something very troublesome is going on with Aled, and while Frances desperately wants to do SOMETHING to help him, she doesn’t know what to do. Until she does.

 

The small ensemble of characters feature a diversity of sexual identities, including gay, bi, lesbian, and demisexual. Frances is white and Ethiopian, Daniel is Korean, and Raine is Indian. There is also a lot of room for choices, or for rethinking choices, regarding what to do after school ends—namely, there are more options than just going to university and more options than just doing the thing you thought you were supposed to work toward. The story is about the podcast, but it’s also not. It’s about people desperately in need of friends. It’s about identities, desires, plans, expectations, and feeling lost. Frances and friends will easily appeal to teen readers who are also grappling with all these same feelings. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062335715

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 03/28/2017

Review from this month’s School Library Journal: The Girl with the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of School Library Journal.

 
the girl with the wrong nameGr 9 Up—A search for answers only leads to more questions in this suspenseful mind-bending thriller. Theo Lane does not remember what happened to her on the night of June 17; she just knows she woke up bruised and with a giant facial gash. She’s repressed any memories of the trauma and, according to her friends, is not acting like her usual self. She avoids her friends and instead focuses on making secret documentaries. Her new subject, unbeknownst to him, is a young man named Andy, who is looking for a girl with whom he spent an amazing night. Theo throws herself into helping him solve his mystery. Before long, both are wondering what they might be forgetting as they run around New York City on a dizzying journey through clues that lead them to night clubs, weddings, a women’s shelter, and, most unexpectedly, Theo and Andy’s shared past. A major discovery near the end reveals truth far more twisted than Theo—or readers—could have predicted. Miller takes readers further and further down the rabbit hole, making it hard to guess if anything—or anyone—is ever as it seems. Some of the plot points push the boundaries of believability, but they all serve to keep readers guessing and racing along with Theo toward the shocking truth. Captivating characters and solid writing help maintain the frantic pace and the bewildering mystery.

VERDICT A riveting thriller for fans of unreliable narrators.Amanda MacGregor, Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud, MN

 

ISBN-13 :9781616951948

Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated

Publication date: 11/03/2015

Book review: Twisted Fate

In Norah Olson’s Twisted Fate, sisters Sydney and Ally couldn’t be more different. Ally is naïve, picks blueberries, bakes muffins, and doesn’t mind dressing like her mother to go sailing. Syd skateboards, like punk music, and is on track to be class valedictorian, despite her main interests in life including skipping class and getting high. When new boy Graham moves in next door, he’s an enigma—in a fairly clichéd and uninteresting way. He’s got a troubled past, feels he’s a genius filmmaker, and comes between the sisters. He’s self-adjusted his various anxiety and ADD medications so that he’s pretty much just one big dilated pupil of intensity. Even Syd, who likes drugs and pushing boundaries, think he’s pretty freaky. He films the sisters, their friends, and random children around town, often using a tiny and hidden camera. As the content of his art films are revealed, they prove to be incredibly disturbing. Like, profoundly messed-up and gruesome.

 

Both sisters take turns telling the story, often recounting the same episode but from completely different perspectives—in fact, it took me a while to realize they were even talking about the same time/thing, their stories were so different. Graham also narrates, as do two police chiefs and his stepmother. The whole story boils down to this: Graham is disturbed and something bad happened in the past; Ally is sweetness and light and everything good; Syd is a rebel who sees Graham for the threat he is, yet is still drawn to him. This psychological thriller manages to build but not entirely sustain suspense as it moves toward an ending that close readers will be able to predict.

 

Pieces of the story stand out, like a fantastic conversation between Sydney and (I think) a guidance counselor at school about the roles and expectations for girls. There’s commentary on class privilege, drug use and abuse, and our current culture of documenting and sharing our lives. There are a lot of interesting things going on in this novel, but they often get buried under too many unnecessary other things.

 

Something about the writing occasionally feels clunky—maybe the many heavy-handed hints, maybe the flat characters who definitely feel like what an adult’s version of what this kind of teen is, maybe the unbelievable excuses and exemptions that allow the story to unfold as it does. The premise is interesting, but the execution leaves something to be desired. This might be a good pick, maybe, for reluctant readers, because of the high level of interest, but that interest is hard to sustain as perspectives shift and the same cliffhangers are dangled over and over again. Tighter writing and less foreshadowing would have helped the eventual big reveal to pack the punch that it should. Fans of thrillers and suspense stories may enjoy this one, despite its flaws, especially if they like bad things happening and disturbing (and disturbed) main characters.

 

REVIEW COPY COURTESY OF EDELWEISS
ISBN-13: 9780062272041
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date
: 1/20/2015