Radio Silence

TRIGGER WARNING: There is an emotionally abusive parent in this book.

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances is a study machine with one goal. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside. Then Frances meets Aled, and for the first time she’s unafraid to be herself.

So when the fragile trust between them is broken, Frances is caught between who she was and who she longs to be. Now Frances knows that she has to confront her past. To confess why Carys disappeared.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

Engaging with themes of identity, diversity and the freedom to choose, Radio Silence is a tour de force by the most exciting writer of her generation.

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman is a complicated world of inclusivity, art, heartbreak and abuse wrapped up in one of the most compelling coming-of-age stories I have read in a long time.

Can I be super honest about something? When I opened the book and read that Oseman is only 21-years-old, I wanted to hate Radio Silence. The fact of her set every alarm bell in my head screaming: FAILURE. But then I remembered that thing I read somewhere that said everybody is on their own timeline, and tried very hard to put it to the back of my mind. Like I have to do every time I read something written by Tavi Gevinson. Sometimes you have to love the thing more than the thing makes you feel bad about yourself, because if I had decided not to read this book, I would have missed out.

Radio Silence is a character driven contemporary that rejects the heteronormativity and romance that dominates the genre. It presents us with a familiar situation: outcast girl meets outcast boy, sets the scene for what we expect to be yet another epic teen romance and then denies us. Frances explains it best: “You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl. I just wanted to say – We don’t. That’s all.”

Oseman does this throughout the novel: she acknowledges our assumptions – of straightness and whiteness, etc – gives them some serious side eye, and then blasts past them in order to let her characters be their fully expressed selves.

This rejection of ‘traditional’ narrative is also apparent in the writing itself. Radio Silence is a book concerned with options and with identity and even the structure of the book demonstrates this. Each part of the novel is identified with a school term and that term is then separated into parts a, b, and c. It reminded me of an exam, where you get to choose whether to answer question a, b or c and was reflective of the way in which Frances, Aled and their friends were choosing which life to lead: one where they lived up to the expectations of their parents/themselves, one where they lived in the way they wanted to while appearing to live up to expectations of their parents/themselves, or one where they threw it all out the window and instead decided to live a life they really truly wanted.

Radio Silence also engages with online culture in a very authentic and satisfying way. The book is set around a Welcome To Nightvale-style podcast that Aled and Frances work on together, and through that story, Oseman analyses the positives and negatives of online life, particularly for those who have gained a following. On the one hand, we see a space where people get to express themselves and their identities in a way they might not be comfortable to do at school – Universe City, Aled Last’s podcast has a gender neutral narrator – but on the other, a world in which people receive death threats by strangers who have decided their identity is offensive. Oseman presents a volatile space and asks us to see the positive in it. After receiving a death threat, Aled tells his boyfriend that he’s demi-sexual, an identity he learned of online and that opened up an understanding of himself he had never had before. Negative offset by positive.

It’s an empowering read that resists tropes at every step from its dissection of the joys and heartbreak of platonic love to its unique take on intelligence in all its forms. You will finish Radio Silence with a little bit more hope than when you started.

Top 5 Podcasts I’m Loving Right Now

I don’t have the most evolved taste in podcasts. I am always last on the bandwagon of anything great. Almost all of my favourite listens I got through recommendations rather than finding them myself. I am the opposite of a podcast hipster. In my podcast listening, as in all other areas of my life, I am uncool.

I’m okay with it.

That said, despite my lack of authority and creativity in finding new shows to listen to, I do love giving recommendations as much as I like receiving them. I recently had a shake-up of the shows I listen to. I used to subscribe to a lot of personal development shows, but I’ve dropped them lately due to their complete disconnection to the real actual world. People who say ‘all you can do is focus on yourself’ in response to events like Trump’s election and Brexit aren’t my people.

There is a weird feeling of guilt attached to dropping things – TV shows, books, podcasts – that don’t really serve who you are any more. Does anyone else get that, or is it just me? I hope it’s not just me.

These are the shows I’m interested in right now. I think you might be too.

Invisibilia

I LOVE this show. It’s about the invisible forces that influence our lives. It functions a bit like This American Life, in that each episode has a subject matter that is explored through different, generally very unusual stories. There was an episode that asked the question of whether blindness is a social construct, an episode about thinking, and how our thoughts create (or don’t) our lives. The most recent episode I listened to (I’m only at the beginning of season 2), was about engaging with your emotions, and how making hyper-masculine oil rig workers cry actually reduced the amount of fatal accidents among workers.

What really makes this show is its hosts. Alix Spiegel, Lulu Miller and Hanna Rosin are such charming, funny and smart women talking about complicated subjects in a way that is approachable and relatable.

Also, they end every show with a dance party, in which I always participate.

Alice Isn’t Dead

From the creators of Welcome to Night Vale, this is probably my favourite fictional podcast series to date. Alice is brimming with an atmosphere of threat and mystery that’ll compel you to binge the first season in days.

Our unnamed (for the majority of the show, anyway) narrator lost her wife a few years back. She thought she was dead, until one day she saw her on the news. She was in the background, walking past a murder scene. The narrator sort of thought she was going crazy until it happened again. And again. And again. So she quit her job to become a trucker, work in which she can drive across the country searching for her lost wife.

There are dangers the narrator cannot comprehend waiting for her. But she’ll face whatever she has to if it’ll reunite her with the love of her life.

On Being with Krista Tippet

This is a show I listen to occasionally rather than religiously, but it fascinates me whenever I tune in. On Being is pretty much exactly that – it is a show during which Tippet and her guest explore what it means to be human. She has discussions through the lens of race, politics, religion, sexuality, tragedy, literature and pretty much everything else you can think of.

If I can recommend a specific starting point, it would be her interview with Maria Popova of Brainpickings.org.

Mostly Lit

I think this is the only UK based podcast I listen to. It is about books, and being a Londoner, blackness and religion. It’s also very funny. I aspire to be as smart as the hosts of this show.

The books discussed are definitely majority literary – I haven’t read most of them – and a lot of shows are dedicated to classic literature. Mostly Lit hosts various guests, mostly of the young London literary scene. One of the most interesting interviews was with Crystal Mahey-Morgan about her publishing company OWN IT! and the importance of diversity in publishing.

The Moth

This podcast is simply people telling stories. Performances of live story tellings are recorded across the world and compiled each week into the Moth Radio Hour. People tell true stories of their lived experiences, tragic or funny, unusual or commonplace, political or personal.

I love it.

 

What are some of your favourite podcasts? I’m always looking for recommendations.

 

Podcast of the Month: The Bright Sessions

Up until this point, my radio drama listening has been sporadic at best. I liked the idea of a continuous story but hadn’t found anything that kept my attention enough to listen week-to-week. Then Ashley C. Ford tweeted about The Bright Sessions. I decided to check it out, and was obsessed immediately.

the bright sessionsThe Bright Sessions are the recorded appointments of Doctor Bright, a therapist for the strange and unusual. Her atypical patients include Sam, who travels in time when she panics, Caleb, an empath who can feel other people’s emotions, Chloe, a mind reader, and Damien. Doctor Bright won’t share what Damien can do, but she’s afraid of him.

Doctor Bright has a plan for her patients. She has chosen them carefully. She needs their abilities. We just don’t know what for.

There is just something so damn intriguing about this story. Doctor Bright is a figure half in shadow. We don’t know much about how she came to know of atypical people – she isn’t one herself. Sometimes it seems like she’s one of the good guys. Other times… not so much. It is difficult to get to her true motivations. Chloe catches glimpses of them in her head until Doctor Bright decides they would be better off doing their appointments over the phone (so Chloe’s ability won’t work).

Each revelation is delicious, and leaves you begging for more. The short twenty minute episodes never quite give enough time with the characters. Just as you start to feel that you’re getting a sense of them and Doctor Bright, they are snatched away from you again.

When I reached the end of the season I literally shouted NO in my kitchen and my brother rushed in to ask me if I was okay.

I was not! And I won’t be until the autumn, when season two begins.

I recommend downloading every episode and putting aside an afternoon to binge listen. Once you start this story, you’ll lose interest in pretty much everything else.

Podcast of the Month: Adventures in Roommating

I want you to know that I originally hand wrote most of this post at work while my boss was on break.

This month I am going to talk to a podcast I’ve only actually been listening to for a couple weeks.

Yes, I have been binge-listening.

I have been watching Meghan Tonjes’ Youtube videos on and off for years. I like her music, her work concerning body positivity and the way she gives zero fucks about calling out famous Youtubers on their bullshit.

I was sort of vaguely aware that she had a podcast with her roommate, and that I would probably like it a lot, but I resisted. There are just so many podcasts in my life right now, I rationalised.

Then Meghan decided to film part of an episode of the podcast, Adventures in Roommating, and post it onto her channel, during which she are her co-host, Keith Battista, reviewed sex toys.

I was sold. I have been listening daily ever since.

It is worth noting that this podcast is NSFW. It’s also NSFP (not safe for parents. Or, most parents. I suppose it really depends on the parents. In my case, listening to this show with my mum would be super awkward).

Adventures in Roommating is the late night (sometimes, but not always) tipsy kitchen conversation you have with friends while you wait for the pizza to arrive. You know the one, where you talk about the movies you saw and the Internet Thing of the day (positive or negative) before moving on to the important stuff.

The important stuff being, of course, who we’re all sleeping with.

It’s also the answering of listener questions and provision of the sort of honest advice we all ask for but don’t actually want.

(the answer to the question of whether or not one should date a youtuber is almost always no)

In both life and the podcast, Keith is the one who will tell you you’re doing something wrong with an eye roll while Meghan swoops in to slap you across the face.

Listening to this one while I drag myself out of bed in the mornings has been a bright spot in a shitty couple weeks.

(nothing serious, don’t worry. Just adult life getting me down).

Podcast of the Month: Harmontown

Harmontown barged into my life like an unwanted guest a few months ago and took up residence. Despite my resentment, every week when the time comes, I download the next episode.

harmontownBeing a huge Community fan (with the exception of the gas leak year, obviously), I have been aware of Dan Harmon for some time. I, like most people, largely thought of him in terms of sitcoms and the incident with Chevy Chase. Then Harmontown (the documentary about the podcast) came onto Netflix and I watched it out of desperation on New Year’s Eve (I was psyching myself up to go out. I really hate NYE) in the hope that I would catch a few lingering shots of Joel Mchale, ideally shirtless.

So far as a shirtless Joel was concerned, I was left wanting, but what I found instead was a drunken idiot I was equal parts intrigued and disgusted by (Harmon). Watching that movie, I experienced for the first time the strange feeling of rooting for someone and wanting his girlfriend to break up with him simultaneously.

Harmontown (the podcast) is a live show featuring Harmon himself, obviously, comptroller Jeff Davis, dungeon master Spencer Crittenden (although they never really do that anymore) and (usually though not officially) Rob Schrab, Dan’s screen writer friend.

What it’s about is a little difficult to define.

Nerd culture plays a big part. Despite my frustrations with Marvel, I remain the sort of person who can listen to people get passionate about super heroes. Other times – the times when I start to wonder why I’m listening, incidentally – they talk about Dan’s Porn Hub addiction (the girlfriend – then wife, actually – did break up with him), and his thing with mannequin legs…

Schrab can always be relied on to do something ridiculous.

At its heart, though, Harmontown is its audience. It’s a community of weirdos in a safe space being weird together, and that’s reflected in the fact that Harmon doesn’t hesitate to pull audience members on stage for an interview if he thinks they might say something interesting. And – at least as far as I can tell – they are more than happy to oblige. Some of the time the conversations Harmon strikes up with adoring strangers are just silly, but other times the moment takes a turn into something more sincere. Sometimes he’ll talk to someone who’s chronically depressed, or someone he recognises as having had the same sort of childhood he did.

It’s part comedy show, part therapy session.

Sometimes part TMI.

But all the moving parts of this show connect into something generous, weird, and funny.

It’s a strange new obsession for me, this one.

Podcast of the Month: Girl on Guy with Aisha Tyler

Lately I have been thinking to myself that this blog could use a feature. I figured this would be more interesting than an episode-by-episode commentary of How to Get Away with Murder.*

I love podcasts. My favourite part of the day is sitting with my podcast and my porridge in the morning.

I fear I am aging myself a bit.

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Girl on Guy with Aisha Tyler is a podcast about life. Art comes up a lot too. Every month, Aisha sits down with a different actor and gently prods them into telling her their story. They are all fascinating, and – even though most of the time the interviewee and Aisha only just met – totally natural-sounding. Aisha Tyler has a way of making the listener (and, I imagine, her guest) feel like she’s known them for years. There is none of the standoffishness or obvious guardedness that you often see on celebrity interviews. I think that’s because to listen to Girl on Guy is to participate in a real conversation. There is fluidity in the content of every podcast because Aisha simply follows up on what’s interesting rather than heavy handedly directing the conversation or obsessing over certain details like so many interviewers do (I’m talking about dating, obvs).

Listening to Girl on Guy is like the rare and surprising conversations you occasionally have in a pub, or a cold kitchen after midnight or on a bus with an interesting stranger, those conversations when you realise that for once you’re being totally genuine with another human.

Aisha Tyler has conversations that you feel in your heart.

Also, despite the title, she doesn’t only interview men.

This is part where I casually bring up How to Get Away with Murder again. A few weeks back Aisha interviewed Sarah Burns AKA Emily Sinclair AKA The Worst Person Ever. But it turns out in real life she is totally charming and interesting and really not someone you’d want to hit with your car.

A lot of times, for me at least, the people Aisha interviews are not actors I have previously heard of. She had a truly fascinating guy on the other week who turned out to be – among many, many other things – the voice of Fat Tony on The Simpsons. Whether or not you’ve heard of a person really has nothing to do with your enjoyment of their interview. As it turns out, all people are interesting.

I really recommend this one if you want to receive some wisdom. Aisha and her guests are full of it.

*Remember when Charlie Weber was Ben on Buffy and you didn’t even care that he existed? I am now unable to imagine such a state. Despite it all, HTGAWM fans, I would drop everything if Frank Delfino came calling. Everything.

The Lively Show

In the months since I have been gearing up to finish university, every day I have wavered between panicked planning, extreme pessimism and shy optimism. Listening to The Lively Show helps feed the shy optimist in me.

At the moment I’m basically obsessed with self-development. When I look into the future, the only thing I see is a big old question mark, but around that are small bubbles of definite wants. Happiness. Travel. Stories.

In the months since I have been gearing up to finish university, every day I have wavered between panicked planning, extreme pessimism and shy optimism. Listening to The Lively Show helps feed the shy optimist in me.

the lively show

Jess Lively is all about living with intention. If we design our lives around values based intentions, she believes, everything good we want will follow. An intention is a way to live your life rather than a goal. It isn’t something you finish so much as something that you cultivate.

The Lively Show is a variety of interviews, mostly with people running their own businesses, about how they gain enrichment and self-knowledge from everything that they do. She talks to people who have written other self-help techniques, started fashion blogs or moved to New Orleans because they needed a new adventure.

This blog pretty much exists because of The Lively Show. It is a remarkable motivator.

As a piece of advice to recent graduates – or anyone lost in the unknown future sea – I would recommend listening to shows like this. People like Jess Lively are all about owning your own existence. When I listen to the show I feel like I am taking back a tiny bit of control over my life.

All the shows so far are available on itunes. They are all wonderful and worth a listen, but here are my top 5:

5. Overcoming death, debt and depression with Hal Elrod

This podcast covers the remarkable story of Hal Elrod, author of self-help book The Miracle Morning. He’s all about how to make the most out of your day. Good motivation for creative types.

4. Accepting and embracing our talents with Brooke White

Brooke White is from Girls with Glasses and American Idol. In this podcast she discusses the massive insecurities she has suffered while trying to cultivate her art. She talks about how to deal with the constant: but what if I suck?! Throughout this entire show I was just like she gets me!

3. Facing fears and slowing down with Joy Wilson

I love Joy the Baker. Who wouldn’t? The story of how her blog came to be is a great motivator. Plus she moved to New Orleans for a better life which is a dream I go to in my head from time to time.

2. The surprisingly simply truth about extraordinary results with Jay Papasan

This episode is all about building up your 10,000 hours. For anyone who doesn’t know, that’s supposed to be the amount of time it takes to cultivate a creative skill. Again, a wonderful one for motivation, especially for when you start to feel like producing your art is like shouting into a void.

1. The art of relaxation and creativity with Jen Gotch

Jen is the creator of Ban.Do, beautiful accessories I can’t afford. Her story is fascinating. She bounced around a lot before she eventually found what she loved to do. This again is a really great listen for anyone feeling a little lost. It gave me that light at the end of the tunnel sensation.

…And there are so many more! The Lively Show is definitely qualifies for binge listening. I quite often have it on when I am getting ready in the morning. It makes for a very positive start to my day!