Alice Oseman (one of my favourite authors) has so far released two fab YA novels (Solitaire, Radio Silence), with a third one releasing this year. In the run up to the release of I Was Born For This there are a series of competitions/giveaways running for advance copies. Now one of these competitions is a giveaway on the theme of ‘favourite character’. The theme inspired me to write this short journal piece about my teenage years and how one particular Alice Oseman character really speaks to my teenage past. (I apologise in advance if this all sounds like gibberish. This is a word splurge more than anything else.)
Honestly, it’s quite hard to pick one favourite character from Alice Oseman’s novels. This is because characters, to me, are the life blood of Alice’s novels. Alice’s writing style really lends itself to the creation of vivid, loveable characters. All that being said, if I did have to pick just one favourite it would probably be Aled Last.
Aled is one of the main protagonists from a book called Radio Silence in which he is the secret creative mastermind behind a podcast called Universe City. To talk more about why I love Aled as a character I emphasise with deeply I feel like I need to spend a bit of time talking about myself. Little known fact: when I was 15 and 16 I used to hang around a lot on amateur voice actor forums. The forums were used a lot by people looking to create fandubs of anime or original audio dramas. My big dream project was to create an original, fantasy audio drama.
I wrote the script myself and posted snippets of dialogue for every character on the forum so I could ask for auditions. I went through every audition and then gave out the parts, sent out the scripts for the first episode and waited for the audio files. Then I mashed the audio together in Audacity (I couldn’t afford fancy software) and added background music and effects. I was in love with the project.
That piece of audio drama meant my characters were alive and finally out in the world rather than trapped in my head. That meant a lot because I lived with those characters every day as I imagined new stories and adventures for them. I was always trying to put those stories down on paper to make them more tangible and now they had new life in another form of media.
I only ever got to physically put one episode together, mostly because all of the voice actors were volunteers so getting them all back together again was difficult. But I was so proud of that one episode. It was such a thrill to pull together my own piece of art and to have people to collaborate and share it with.
My parents didn’t know anything about my little adventure into the world of audio drama production. I did not want them to know and did not feel like they would have understood.
I have always been very private about my interests and hobbies, but this was especially true when I was a teenager. I didn’t even tell my friends about my project, though to tell the truth from ages 15-16 I didn’t really have any friends. I had just moved to a new school from another country and I just couldn’t fit in and I kind of didn’t want to either. The school was full of people who had known each other since primary school and there was I butting in half way through GCSEs with baggage and a detrimental lack of self confidence. I was teased for being quiet and I was always an outsider even around the kind few who tried to include me.
During those years my solace was found in creative projects and fandoms. I wrote fan fiction, original fiction, ran groups on Deviantart, and made my own audio drama. It was my happy place. Everything I could not find in my school life, I found online. Online I had a voice of my own that was true and not disguised to conform with the expectations of others.
This is why I find it so easy to love Aled Last in Radio Silence. Aled, who when we first meet him is introduced with his voice fading as if he doesn’t think people are listening, who’s voice is a rarely heard thing. Aled, who finds solace in his private project and uses it to build a secret, more confident self nourished by his creative endeavours. His podcast, and the relationships he finds as a consequence of making it, helps him build and develop a truer version of himself, ready to bloom to the outside world once he is able to give himself permission to embrace it, regardless of what others may think or any boundaries they try to place on him. His character growth over the course of the novel is so satisfying.
I wish I’d been able to read this book at 15. I think seeing Aled and Frances’ journey would have given me some solace in my loneliness and help me have the courage to really be myself. To not be caught up in the academic machine and to instead unapologetically invest in the creative projects that brought me so much joy.