*Insert Gay Title Here*
Happy Wednesday! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life, as always, my name is Hannah and I am the host and leader into the insanity that is my mind.
I must say, it has been awhile since I went all out with a crazy/does not make any sense/I don’t know where my thoughts came from post. Of course I can only be talking about one thing: I’m talking about my Hannah Hot Take posts! Seriously, the last time I did one of these was all the way back in 2020, and we’re halfway through 2021. A new hot take is well overdue.
A minor side note, I have changed the name of my hot take posts ever so slightly. Its name is currently Hannah Hot Take instead of Hannah Hot Takes; I’m still not a fan of the name, but I have yet to think of anything better. Feel free to send in recommendations because anything is better than what I have right now. One day, there will be a good official name for this series…today is not that day.
Normally, my hot take posts tend to be about a short story from way back in the day that not many people remember or have even heard of. We’re changing that. This week we’re talking Tom Ryan’s recent novel I Hope You’re Listening.
Published in 2020, I Hope You’re Listening follows 17-year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner who is the anonymous host of the well-known true crime podcast Radio Silent. Known by the Radio Silent community simply as the Seeker, she reports missing persons cases in hopes that her community can help bring people home. And she does all this because of her guilt over something that happened ten years before.
Dee watched helplessly as her best friend, Sibby Carmichael, got kidnapped. No body and no clues were ever found to bring Sibby home, and ten years later another little girl goes missing from the same neighborhood. Now Dee has a choice to make. Tell her story to discover the truth about what happened to Sibby and hopefully save this other little girl, or stay quiet to protect her identity and her life.
This isn’t a review of I Hope You’re Listening, but I do want to really quickly say that this is a great premise. It has a killer hook and I’m jealous that I didn’t think of it first. True crime podcasts and books are two of my favorite things; it feels like this book was made for me! Please excuse me while I purchase every book in the true crime podcast subgenre. Send me some recs, friends.
Like I said, this is not a review, but I did enjoy this read. This is a hot take post, and for the first time ever, my hot take is not that outlandish. Typically these posts are me convincing no one that the unseen enemy of a short story is actually a giant, humanoid bug or something of that nature. This time around I simply want to say that Radio Silent and Dee’s secret identity are an allegory for coming out of the closet.
Now, this hot take is so plausible that I’m scared to Google the idea for fear that the internet is already full of the theory. So I’m not going to do that. I’m going to pretend that I’m the first person to ever come to this conclusion.
A disclaimer before I present my evidence, I am a straight woman. I may be an ally, but I will never have a coming out of the closet experience. Everything I know about coming out is from standing beside friends in the LGBTQIA+ community. You should probably take everything I say with a grain of salt. Feel free to call me out in the comments or on social media if there is something I got wrong.
I should also note the following as well. In my evidence presentation, I will be referring to Dee as if she is the one coming out just to make the post easier to write and follow. Just know that this allegory is more generalized when reading the book, and can refer to anyone who is in the situation of coming out.
I shall now move on to my bullet points in order to convince you that this book is a massive allegory; beginning with Dee and one of the villains of the novel. Meet Quinlee Ellacott, an aggressive journalist from the Breaking News Network. Quinlee is out to unmask the Seeker, and she plans to do so no matter the cost. She’s an obnoxious character and I hated her instantly. Seriously, her introduction to readers is her threatening to expose Dee as the Seeker in a very aggressive email that boils down to “tell me who you are or you’ll be sorry you kept your identity a secret and wanted privacy.”
Not cool. And ya know what else isn’t cool? Threatening to expose someone’s sexuality when said person is not out yet. I think you can see what I’m getting at here.
Dee does not want her secret revealed. She has taken massive steps in order to hide her identity. Her voice is masked by a voice changer, her computer, social media accounts, and whatnot are all secure thanks to encryptions and firewalls; no one is going to figure out who she is and that’s how she wants it to be. If she reveals that she is the Seeker, she’s going to do so on her terms. Or, if you read the subtext, if she’s going to come out then she’ll do so on her own terms. Dee is certainly not going to do so when Quinlee, AKA the representation of homophobes and/or general asshole people, tries to make her do so through fear mongering.
At the beginning of the book, the subtext is saying Dee isn’t ready to come out; hence the measures she’s taken to hide who she is. She’s putting on a mask to make people believe there is nothing “different” about her. She’ll fool the masses until she’s ready. And that’s what Dee does.
By the end of the book, our heroine is indeed ready to come out though. Through an emergency podcast episode, Dee reveals who she is and does not use her voice changer. Therefore the mask is gone and she’s ready to be her true self. And all thanks to her true friends, accepting family, and the LDA, AKA the LGBTQIA+ community and allies.
I have not brought up the LDA in this post yet. LDA stands for Laptop Detective Agency. They are fans of Dee’s podcast and they help solve the fictional missing person cases Dee reports on. At the climax of the book, Dee calls out to the LDA for help surviving the deadly situation she’s in. But again, we are reading into the subtext of this novel.
Thus continuing with our theory of the Seeker being the mask Dee puts on for the world to hide her true self, Quinlee and the other villains of the novel being the hateful homophobes, this means we’re just missing a support community. In this case, that’s the LDA. Despite the fact that Dee has supportive friends and family, the LDA are the ones to come to her rescue.
They are a representation of someone being there, and listening to what’s going on. They are literally there to save Dee, and welcome her with open arms. Let me just give you a quick passage from I Hope You’re Listening. Also, spoiler alert. This scene is from the climax of the novel so continue at your own risk:
A middle-aged woman steps forward and hurriedly wraps a blanket around me.
"Are you Delia Skinner?" she asks me.
I can only nod, my teeth suddenly chattering, and the cold rapidly taking over now that I’ve stopped running.
"My name is Diane," she says. She turns and gestures at the other people. "We’re all Laptop Detectives.”
Truthfully, I have no idea how to continue now. The above passage kinda just fits the vibe of what I’m getting at. So please enjoy the following picture of Will Smith that represents my thoughts right now:
All I can say is this is a group of people who are there for Dee at the drop of a dime. They know nothing about this young girl, but they are all there because she asked for help. I can’t offer any evidence that the LDAs represent the LGBTQIA+ community outside of saying that they are both communities, and offering you the countless stories I’ve heard of members of the LGBTQIA+ community offering help to someone they didn’t or hardly knew who had come out and was in need of help. In a sense, both communities can be seen as rescuers and that’s about all I have for this point.
Also worth a quick mention are the many times throughout the novel that someone asks Dee to cover Sibby’s story. This ties back into Dee revealing who she is when she’s ready. She feels pressure both from others, and from herself, to talk about the case and her own role in it. But again, she’s going to do so when she wants to. All this to say, even though Dee feels pressured to reveal her true self, her coming out can only be done by her. Even if the situation is far from ideal, the words have to leave her mouth by choice.
To end, let’s quickly discuss the very end of the novel. Again, spoiler alert. Continue at your own risk. Radio Silent ultimately loses Dee as a host. After telling the world who she is, she passes the mic to another woman. It’s as if by revealing her identity, or coming out, she doesn’t need to hide herself anymore. People know who she is, and she’s fine with that. Dee says it herself:
“I need to live my life in the open for awhile.”
No more hiding behind a mask. No more hiding behind a voice changer. She has no use for either of those things anymore. This is her story, her coming out, and the narrative is hers alone to control now that she’s no longer hidden; no one is going to take that from her.
I think that’s a good note to end on, which means I must bid you adieu. Is this the best piece I’ve ever done? Certainly not. Is it the worst though? Also no. Before I go though, I wish to send a big thank you to a friend of mine: Charlotte. Thanks for helping me out with this one when I got stuck and spent too much time looking at the post. It means a lot that you’d help me out. Thank you so much! And by the way dear reader, you should go follow her Instagram account: @adventures_in_dc.
Next week, I think we’ll dive back into some gothic horror. Since it’s almost my birthday, and gothic horror is my happy place, no other form of literature shall do. Until then, stay safe, wear a mask if you aren’t vaccinated yet, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.