The Little Contemporary Corner

How Alice Oseman Writes Friendship

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I’ve spent a lot of my time in the last couple of years thinking about Alice Oseman’s novels. It’s really hard not to when she writes wonderful stories with wonderful detailing that is hardly ever recognised. Recently, me and some friends co-read Radio Silence and i’ve been thinking about it since.

Okay maybe not thinking about the book all the time (although, that wouldn’t be a lie), i’ve been thinking a lot about how Alice writes friendships. I think one of the biggest strengths Alice has is writing incredibly realistically. Whether that’s relationships, fandom, school, and friendships, everything she writes feels like it has happened to me already and not in a cliched way.

I want to talk a bit about how Alice writes friendships in her books, and how that really does reflect on modern friendships between younger people today. I’ve never felt like my friendships are truly recognised in books. I find a lot of dramatised friendships in YA novels, and new adult novels. Friends that won’t hug because it’s weird and very rarely show any kind of affection with each other. All situations they are in you can imagine them all sat together but it never seems comfortable, or like a real friendship.

Alice is completely different. She writes her friendship in a way where mine feels seen. I’m going to take Sophie as an example for my explanation during this post. She’s been my best friend for fourteen years now, and we have had moments of being inseperable. In the last few years, our friendship has had more of a physical connection than i have with most friends. We hug (a lot), happily cuddle up on a sofa and hold hands. There’s never a conversation we leave without saying we love each other.

I know plenty of people that feel like this type of friendship is strange, but many who have the same thing with the people they’re closest to. Alice ingrains these friendships in her characters, and i think that’s what struck me most when i read Radio Silence. Frances and Aled, although are new friends, become very close very quickly. It’s stated very early on that they do not have feelings for each other and that’s ‘not where this is going.’ It took me a while to believe that until i saw my own friendships in theirs.

There are moments where Frances and Aled are holding hands whilst watching a movie, where they hug for a long time and don’t let go, and they sit happily in silence with each other and the whole scene reads calm. I’ve never had a silence feel so calming in a scene of a book, but Alice managed to replicate how i feel sat around my very best friends.

There was quite a big lead up between the friends in this book telling each other they loved each other. It’s the need of being accepted and is the other person in this friendship for good. It’s just as scary as telling a partner you love them for the first time, and Alice wrote this perfectly. There was hesistation and want from both characters acknowledging that they have a bond no-one else does.

Similarly, where Alice writes a whole bunch of super cute and realistic soulmate friendship (this is what i’m going with), she writes a lot of other friendships incredibly well. There’s not any prominent love stories in Alice’s books (let’s not count Heartstopper), but plenty of different friendships to explore. To use another example from Radio Silence, Alice creates a wonderful friendship between Frances and Daniel.

Daniel is not someone Frances would be bothering with usually, however the way their friendship develops feels incredibly realistic. They gradually become closer, due to another person, and this represents so many friendships in the world that are also incredibly important. New people untrusting of each other at first and finding their feet is so important, and i’m glad she writes awkward scenes and moments like those.

One of the friendships that has always stuck with me is Lister, Jimmy and Rowan from I Was Born For This. These are the three people that make up the band The Ark, and it felt like one of the most prominent friendships i have ever read. It is discussed that they are all friends before the band, and they still are with them all living together and travelling together, however something about how they interact with each other seems incredibly realistic. I fit myself in to their scenes easily and imagine them talking to each other.

I guess what i’m trying to say in all of this is that Alice is incredible at writing small narrative detail that makes a scene feel real. The emotions of characters easily flow from the writing and the tension in the scenes is felt when you read her books. I’ve never read anything like Alice’s writing, and i think she really is a young adult genius.

We’re celebrating all things Alice Oseman today. Go over to Lois’ blog for a look at her top 10 Alice characters, and Jaz has an excellent video on her channel showcasing her Radio Silence look book. Charlotte also has a great post about Alice’s sexuality representation! Once you’ve done, pop back over here and Sophie has a post all about how Alice writes fandom.

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