book review

Ranking & Reviewing Alice Oseman’s Novels

Hello people of the internet! Earlier this year, I discovered Emma Mills and her wholesome YA contemporaries. My decision to read all five of her books led me to write a post in which I ranked her novels, from my least favorite to my most favorite. (Click here to read it!) Not only did I have a lot of fun working on that post, but I also received really good feedback from you all, which has prompted me to think of another author I could do the same with.

Ultimately, my choice fell on Alice Oseman, because her contemporaries have always appealed to me. I’ve known that they are diverse novels with little to no romance, and that they are loved by most of everyone in the community. For the record, I read Heartstopper Vol 1 ages ago, but I barely remember it, so I will not be talking about that today. In fact, I’m “only” covering three of Oseman’s novels today, as I have no interest in Solitaire. ๐Ÿ™ˆ I’m hoping this post will still prove interesting/useful for you all.

I WAS BORN FOR THIS

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark โ€“ a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Arkโ€™s fandom has given her everything โ€“ her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. Heโ€™s their frontman โ€“ and playing in a band is all heโ€™s ever dreamed of doing. Itโ€™s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because thatโ€™s the problem with dreaming โ€“ eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

I have to admit, I’m not exactly pleased with I Was Born For This. ๐Ÿ™„ While I found the writing engaging, I couldn’t fully enjoy the story. One of the biggest issues I had were the strange coincidences in the novel. Look, I can and do accept weird coincidences, because yes, sometimes – especially in books about celebrities – we have to be able to suspend our disbelief. And, generally speaking, I am capable of doing that, but I Was Born For This took this a bit too far for me. The story is filled to the brink with these type of coincidences and, to be honest, the book doesn’t necessarily get better when these aren’t present. The main reason behind that is the fact that even then many of the novel’s scenes remain illogical and unstructured.

As such, certain aspects of the novel felt badly developed and slightly questionable. For instance, I understand and accept that there was a need for someone to call out Angel’s extreme fangirl behavior, but the biggest call out she received came from the wrong source, in my opinion. I’m not going to go into detail, but let me just say that there could and should have been a better person to deliver this message. I was particularly surprised by this scene because Angel already received a call out from a person her age and her parents, so having a strange adult be so rough to her was essentially pointless as far as the plot and character development is concerned.

Speaking of the characters, finding something to like about Angel was a struggle. She tethered her whole life, her whole personality to The Ark, and her development was effectively nonexistent for the better part of the book. It’s exactly because of this that I found the ending, i.e. her sudden ability to decide her future career, incredibly unrealistic. There was no build up to this decision, so I couldn’t fully get behind it. The rest of the cast fared slightly better, although I do think that some of them – such as Bliss or Rowan – could have done with a little more development.

The thing that makes me the saddest is that we were promised a nuanced discussion on fandom culture, and I don’t think Oseman delivered on that promise. While positive aspects of fandoms were mentioned, e.g. finding online friends through them, or how diverse these fandoms can be, Angel’s extreme fangirling took the stage. We saw all the worst parts of fandoms, such as shipping real life people or even physically attacking celebrities if they do something fans dislike, while the good parts were barely touched upon.

Admittedly, I was never really a part of any fandoms, so I’m not the best person to comment on this. I’d love to hear your thoughts – everyone’s, but especially those who’ve ever been part of a fandom. Does the good outweigh the bad in fan-culture? Did you like how fandoms were portrayed in the novel? Share, share!

The dual perspective (+ the engaging writing I mentioned earlier) saved I Was Born for This for me. I loved Jimmy, and I appreciated seeing his relationship with his band mates, as well as his complicated feelings about their fandom. I liked that a few of the good parts of fandom culture were shown through his eyes, such as the fans protecting him at their meet and greet.

I Was Born for This is not necessarily a bad book, but it’s certainly not the book I hoped it would be. To be honest, the bad outweighs the good, however, I cannot give this anything less than three stars. As a closing note, I have to shout out the audiobook, which has separate narrators for Angel and Jimmy, both of whom did an excellent job at conveying the characters’ emotions.

RADIO SILENCE

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 donโ€™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?

I’m so glad I picked up Radio Silence even after being lowkey disappointed by I Was Born For This! While I had a few issues with this novel – more on those later – it was overall a really solid YA Contemporary with fantastic characters. Oh, and it gets bonus points for revolving around a fun-sounding podcast! I’ve been really into podcasts recently, so I related to Frances’ love for Universe City. (And Welcome to Night Vale was mentioned, which felt like a personal call-out for me to give it another chance.)

As I said, the characters were phenomenal. I loved Frances and I thought her voice was incredibly realistic and quite relatable; her realization that, perhaps, she is not as sure about her future as she would like to be is something that will resonate with many readers. I definitely think that Frances led the show here, but I also loved reading about Aled, Daniel, and Frances’ mom, as well.

The characters lead me to my absolute favorite thing about the novel – the relationships between them. Frances and Aled had such a soft, pure connection based on shared interests and it was a pleasure to see that instant connection evolve into a really close friendship. I’ll say this, however: I struggle with Oseman’s way of introducing sub-plots through a perspective that, frankly, has no business seeing these things. It’s weird when a character overhears details about another character’s relationship. It happened here and it happened in I Was Born For This, so I wonder if this is a pattern in Oseman’s stories.

Speaking of patterns, the scene leading up to the ending was so powerful! Without spoilers, let me just say that I absolutely adored how the characters came together to help and support one of their friends. However, the story then went into this weird, over-dramatic direction which was completely unnecessary. Again, something similar happened in I Was Born For This, so I’m very curious to see if the same thing is repeated in Loveless.

Overall, I’m so satisfied with Radio Silence! It’s a solid four-star-read and heartfelt, beautiful contemporary novel I’d fully recommend. On a side note – if you can, try the audiobook, because the narrator,  Aysha Kala, is incredible.

LOVELESS

Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush โ€“ but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic sheโ€™s sure sheโ€™ll find her person one day.

As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgiaโ€™s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her โ€˜teenage dreamโ€™ is in sight.

But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her โ€“ asexual, aromantic โ€“ Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.

Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?

TW: internalized aphobia

Disclaimer/Additional Info: Recently, it’s come to my attention that Loveless has hurt people as it has many problematic/questionable elements regarding how it portrays Georgia’s aro/ace experience, the pansexual character, as well as characters of color. If you want to find out more about this – and I think you should – I highly recommend reading Maรซlys’ review by clicking here. I apologize for not seeing these things, and will try my best to do better in the future. I’m leaving my original review up as it was posted, but will most likely change my rating of the book later today.

I was hoping for greatness from Loveless, but even so, I was surprised by how much I loved this book. I found it effectively perfect, which came as a surprise after having pretty significant problems with Oseman’s previous novels. Loveless has #OwnVoices aro/ace representation, and it features a character coming to terms with her sexuality and slowly learning (or, rather, understanding, because deep down she’s always known this) that platonic love is just as powerful and important as romantic love.

Similarly to Radio Silence (and, okay, even I Was Born For This), Oseman put a lot of love and effort into writing the characters and their relationship with each other. Seeing Georgia’s blossoming friendship with Rooney, her roommate, was incredible, but so was her strong, already-existing friendship with Pip and Jason. The characters’ conflicts and mistakes were handled in a thoughtful and realistic manner, and I loved seeing how their relationship was shaped by these conflicts. Oh, and the grand gesture at the end! It made me beam so much; I adored this bunch, and I wanted them to be happy. ๐Ÿฅบ

One of the biggest problems I had with Oseman’s previous novels was that I felt like she wasn’t satisfied with leaving her secondary characters’ story in the background, she always tried to lift them to the front for a few scenes. She did this by having the narrator overhear a conversation, which felt intrusive and awkward. Here, while she used the same method, she did it with a lot more care, in my opinion. For example, we do see Georgia overhear an argument, but (1) she overhears family members, (2) this happens within her own house, and (3) it’s a topic that concerns her, so it makes sense why she stays and listens.

Overall, reading Loveless was a wonderful experience; a five star read, without question. I loved the characters, found the plot well-constructed, and was satisfied with the writing. This is an incredible novel; one that I recommend to anyone, but especially to those of you who have been asking for a YA Contemporary without a main romance. (We do have a wonderful F/F sub-plot, though!) Loveless does a great job of sharing Georgia’s story and development, and basically screams the message that “friendship is just as important and powerful as romance!”

Closing Thoughts

I’m satisfied with this experiment, especially because without it I’d have stopped after I Was Born For This, as that disappointment ruined my hope for Oseman’s novels. Because of the post, however, I decide to push on which is good, because I adored both Radio Silence and Loveless. So, if you’re wondering “should I give chance to Oseman’s novels?” my answer is a loud “hell, yes!!” They’re enjoyable and fun, made cozy and nice with lovely friendships and characters, i.e. they’re the perfect summer reads.

Let’s chat!

Have you read anything by Alice Oseman? Do you plan to? What aspects of her novel(s) do you like/dislike? Do you have any suggestions for whose books I could rank next?

the watercolor flower divider was created by photographeeasia via freepik.com

33 thoughts on “Ranking & Reviewing Alice Oseman’s Novels

  1. So far I’ve only read heartstopper from Alice Oseman, and loved it, so I really need to pick up more of her works!
    Great reviews!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, this was such a great post!! Sorry to hear that you were a bit disappointed by I Was Born for This, but I’m happy to hear that you liked Radio Silence ๐Ÿ˜Š The latter was the book that got me interested in podcasts in the first place and prompted me to begin listening to them ๐Ÿฅฐ Ohh and Loveless!! I hope my library loan comes through soon as I’ve heard such fantastic things about this book! I’m super excited to read it and very happy to see that you loved it โค

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! Radio Silence is such an incredible novel!! I loved the characters so much. ๐Ÿฅฐ Ooh, I may have asked this before, but what podcasts do you listen to? ๐Ÿ‘€ I don’t know enough people who like (multiple) podcasts. I hope you’ll love Loveless! It’s easily my favorite by Oseman AND one of my favorite novels this year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t listened to too many podcasts, but I do like lots of writing advice ones ๐Ÿ˜Š My faves are probably Write or Die and Write Now! I also started watching Girl in Space which is fun – I definitely need to catch up on it!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Solitaire was my first ever Oseman book that I read many years ago. I still think it’s my favourite, and I highly recommend it!! It’s got Charlie Spring’s older sister, Tori, as the main character, and it’s so interesting seeing the new Heartstopper comics start to align with the events in Solitaire from years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you gave her another try and your experience wound up being much better with the subsequent books. I see Alice’s books around the blogging community, but I have yet to read any. I think Loveless appeals to me the most. I love when authors take their time with characters and all of the relationships in the book and it sounds like Alice is a pro at it. Wonderful post, Veronika!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I relate to that – I kept seeing her books & even owned Radio Silence for years before I finally picked anything by her up. ๐Ÿ˜… If you enjoy YA Contemporaries without a main romance, I think you’ll enjoy her novels. Thank you, Nick! ๐Ÿฅฐ

      Like

  5. Alice Oseman is an author I always intend to read… but haven’t quite gotten around to. I know I’ve seen a lot of people say good things and now you as well? maybe I need to actually get around to reading? I mean, I’ve been meaning to read Radio Silence forever!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Heartstoppers was my introduction to Alice Oseman! I’ve been meaning to get into her other work but had no idea where to start – this review has definitely given me the push I needed. Radio Silence seems like exactly the kind of book I’d be interested in!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ahh, i love these themed mini reviews so much! and i’m so glad you enjoyed radio silence! i think it’s the only contemporary book i’ve ever given 5 stars :”) even though i do understand that it has flaws and the ending could’ve been executed better. i just connected to the characters a lot and i loved its messages about academic pressure!

    also, i’m so excited to read loveless! i’ve heard only good things about it, and, i don’t know, maybe it’ll help me figure out my own identity (i am questioning some things, haha ๐Ÿ˜…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! ๐Ÿฅฐ Radio Silence was so good – I’m glad you loved it even more than I did. I agree, the academic pressure was so relatable and well-written. I think it shows that Oseman is such a young writer – she can create really realistic teenagers. ๐Ÿ˜€

      I felt the same way about Loveless, just didn’t want to mention it in the review. ๐Ÿ˜… I don’t want to say it was HELPFUL, because it’s something *I* have to figure out, I suppose, but it was a wonderful (& calming? idk if that makes sense) experience, nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this post!! I really enjoy Alice Oseman’s writing and I love how her stories tend to be super character-driven. Radio Silence is probably my favorite one of her books, though I also really enjoyed Loveless! I liked I Was Born for This mostly because of Jimmy, and I definitely agree with you about there being some underdeveloped things when it came to Angel. Great reviews ๐Ÿ’•

    Liked by 1 person

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