I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley. This in no way affects my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (HarperCollins Children's Books, 25 February 2016)
To appreciate just how blown away I was by RADIO SILENCE, you may need to revisit the review I wrote about a year ago for SOLITAIRE, Oseman’s debut novel. I couldn’t figure out how I felt about that book at all. I wasn’t sure if I actually liked it—I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, I thought it was boring, I thought it was vaguely interesting. It was bizarre. But I did think highly of Oseman’s writing and I was hopeful that one day she might write a book that appealed to me more. And you know what? She did it right away, with her second book. RADIO SILENCE is just the most exhilarating and gripping roller coaster of emotions about a podcast (!!!), and I know exactly how I feel about it: I love it, 100%.
Meet Frances Janvier.
I was going to Cambridge, and I was going to get a good job and earn lots of money, and I was going to be happy.
Frances is in Year 12. She’s Head Girl at school and she does brilliantly in exams. She’s not good at or interested in much else—but she’s secretly a huge fan of this podcast called Universe City. Nobody knows who the anonymous Creator of the podcast is, but Frances posts fanart of the podcast on her Tumblr, and one day, the Creator messages her to ask her if she would like to work with them to produce art for the podcast. Frances is of course overjoyed. But soon she realises that the Creator is actually someone she’s met in real life: Aled Last, the twin brother of Carys Last, a girl Frances used to be friends with before Carys ran away a few years ago. Aled is a high achiever like Frances, a year older than her and headed for an elite university. Frances and Aled become friends very quickly, but when the podcast goes viral, their friendship is tested. After Aled goes off to university, Frances and Aled are even more isolated from each other and Frances doesn’t know what to do when Aled seems to be slipping away. But it all seems to come back to one thing: Carys, and what happened to make her run away.
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Solitaire by Alice Oseman (HarperCollins Children's, 31 July 2014)
SOLITAIRE is a bit of a strange one. It's the only book I've ever read which has actually come close to depicting what my life felt like as a teenager, but I'm not 100% sure whether this necessarily makes it a good book. I think, for now, I'm going to say that yes, it sort of does.
Tori Spring is sixteen. She goes to Higgs Grammar School. She blogs. Her life is completely uninspiring. That is until, all in the same day, she meets an eccentric boy called Michael, stumbles upon a mysterious blog called Solitaire, and reunites with her childhood best friend, Lucas. Solitaire begins to play pranks on the school, which grow bigger and gradually more out of hand. The strange thing is, all the things that Solitaire does seem to hold special meaning for Tori alone. With Michael's help, Tori might just discover the truth behind Solitaire.
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Abhorsen by Garth Nix (#3 in the Old Kingdom series) (HarperCollins Children's, first published in 2003)
This review contains spoilers for the first two books of the series.
Oh, ABHORSEN. I finished you at 1am and sobbed for at least 15 minutes.
An ancient evil, imprisoned since the dawn of time, is on the verge of being freed. Lirael and Sam, followed by their companions, the Disreputable Dog and Mogget, are the only ones who have a chance to stop it from destroying the world before it's too late. But Nick, Sam's best friend, is being controlled against his will and unknowingly by a shard of the evil within his body – can Lirael and Sam possibly save the world and Nick at the same time?
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Lirael by Garth Nix (#2 in the Old Kingdom series) (HarperCollins Children's, first published in 2001)
This review contains spoilers for the first book in the series.
I was a bit sad when I realised that I would not see much of Sabriel in LIRAEL. Instead, the book starts fourteen years after Sabriel and Touchstone have defeated Kerrigor and restored the Old Kingdom, and the focus of this book is on Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr, and Prince Sameth, son of Sabriel and Touchstone – so thankfully, we do get to see just a tiny bit of Sabriel! I guess I don't normally expect this from a series, for it to jump forward until the main characters of the first book are parents and we get to see their children going on adventures of their own! It's kind of weird but really interesting.
But I needn't have been sad, because I soon came to love Lirael as a character even more than I did Sabriel. LIRAEL is a longer book than SABRIEL by about 200 pages or so, and I feel like those extra 200 pages are mostly spent on character development. To which I say: YES! I felt like I knew Lirael much better than Sabriel at the end of the novel. When the story begins, Lirael is fourteen years old. She is the only Clayr she knows who has not received the gift of the Sight by this age. She doesn't look like the rest of the Clayr: where they have brown skin and light hair and eyes, she has pale skin and dark hair and eyes. She is ashamed of her lack of the Sight and she feels like she doesn't belong. But as the book goes on, she realises that another destiny calls her.
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Sabriel by Garth Nix (#1 in the Old Kingdom series) (HarperCollins Children's, first published 1995)
The only thing I could think of when I finished reading SABRIEL was, why didn't I read this sooner? This is exactly the kind of book I loved and devoured as a child. Full of magic and adventure, and journeys across a fantasy land.
Sabriel goes to a boarding school in Ancelstierre, not far from the Wall which separates Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom. Ancelstierre is much like our world (sort of an alternate England in the 1910s), a world mostly without magic unless you're really close to the Wall, because the Old Kingdom is where magic happens. Sabriel comes from the Old Kingdom but she has grown up in Ancelstierre. Her father is Abhorsen, a man who works to undo the evils wrought by necromancers. One day, however, when Sabriel is eighteen years old, her father does not appear for one of his regular visits to Sabriel's school. A messenger comes in his place, giving Sabriel her father's sword and bells: the equipment that he used for his work. Fearing the worst but hoping to find out what has happened to him, Sabriel crosses the Wall into the Old Kingdom, only to discover a land where evil has long been brewing...
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