What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.
But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.
Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…
Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
I received an e-copy of this book courtesy of HarperCollins UK, Children’s via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
So finally, it has come.
The review of my favourite book of last year and my favourite read for a very, very long time. Why it has taken me so long to review it, I don’t really have an answer to that; I could only suggest the fact that this book was such an incredible masterpiece that has stayed seared in my brain for so long after reading it that I could not even begin to fathom words that would do it justice. And I still cannot, but this post is going to be a crude attempt at doing so.
And feels there were. I am pretty sure I actually cried for a good portion of the story, but with good cause.
Oseman crafted such realistic, diverse and relatable characters it really didn’t take long for me to become attached to them with no way of turning back. And I loved every single one of them.
Frances was a brilliant protagonist (and it was also great to see that she, unlike many other YA protagonists out there had a very supportive, unicorn-onesie-wearing mother in her life to care for her), I think she portrayed the struggles of teenagers in Britain’s sixth forms remarkably well. I mean, with the first-hand experience of how attending one of said institutions feels like – I can definitely confirm that a good percentage of the ‘smart’ individuals definitely have multiple crises a week…
Which in turn leads me to my next point. I honestly feel like thanking Oseman for her realistic take on the British (and probably global) education system. It was not sugar-coated in the slightest – there was failure, it was also shown how easy it is to be deemed a failure; especially by relatives when following a path in life that they do not quite approve of or not wanting to follow a path that they do… This book also dealt with the pressures put on students by the schools themselves, which of course do not help at all when trying to deal with the whole ‘life’ thing whilst being told that it “only gets worse in the real world” whereas, in all fairness, the hardest years will probably be over once school and university for those who want to attend it are over and done with.
Back to the characters, their relationship was so bloody refreshing. A book based solely on the ideas of friendship is rare, especially where there is potential for some romantic chemistry to occur. I mean Frances was bisexual and Aled identified as asexual, so there was basically no reason for them not to get together other than the fact that their relationship was entirely platonic. THANK YOU SO MUCH BOOK GODS FOR FINALLY ANSWERING MY PRAYERS FOR AN AUTHOR WHO FINALLY UNDERSTANDS THAT TWO TEENAGERS OF OPPOSITE SEX CAN BE FRIENDS WITHOUT WANTING TO GET INTO EACH OTHER’s PANTS AT ONE POINT OR ANOTHER.
Their friendship was honestly flawlessly written, whilst still possessing flaws – there were fights and disagreements but it was clear that there was a lot of platonic love between them, and paired with understanding and a general love of similar things – they made a wonderful pair.
This book was definitely not an easy read, with the aforementioned reflections on the education system – but also with the general works of being a teenager and trying to find yourself whilst simultaneously losing yourself in the process whilst trying to overcome all the other hardships that life will throw in your way such as familial issues, and general not knowing what to do which comes quite often as a teenager in present-day society which inadvertently pressurises us to get our metaphorical shit together and adult slightly before we are actually ready to in a lot of cases. I mean – deciding what I want to do with my life at 16? No thanks… I’d much rather not, but unfortunately, there is just no escaping it.
I loved every single thing about this book, down to the way in which it was written, the style was easy to read and made the 470 page book shrink down into one sitting of just over an hour and a bit…. The transcripts were a brilliant addition, and I honestly felt as though I could hear Aled speaking when reading them. The concept of Universe City was truly brilliant (have I used the word brilliant enough in this post??) and whilst it definitely made me cry towards the end, I appreciated the messages which it carried.
Also, may we talk about how bloody realistic and relatable this book generally was? Oseman honestly did a brilliant job, and I think that is partly due to her age – there were honestly so many points during the novel at which I simply felt like saying “same” or “that’s me and so and so” and I honestly don’t think enough books have gotten that sort of reaction out of me, so huge HUGE kudos to the brilliant author.
One thing that actually had me bouncing with excitement was the fact that this book was actually set in my home town’s surrounding area. The descriptions of the highstreet and its cobblestone streets rang a bell whilst reading, but it didn’t fully click why it was a little bit too familiar until I found out Oseman’s origins. This in turn left me a wee bit inspired and with hope that I too may be able to create similar wonderful things with my writing if I stick with it… so I guess this is a huge personal thank you for her from me too.
I could easily continue, but I feel as though it would be boring and many of the next points would be bordering on spoilery, so I am going to end my review here. I hope that many of you who read it will choose to embark on the journey that this book provides, because it truly is an extraordinary one that I will likely never forget.
My Rating: More than 5 / 5 Stars
“And I’m platonically in love with you.”
“That was literally the boy-girl version of ‘no homo’, but I appreciate the sentiment.”