Let’s Talk About Love is one of the most well known books with an asexual main character. Alice, our main character, is a black, asexual, biromantic, 19 year old freshman in college learning to live by herself for the first time. It’s the summer between her freshman and sophomore year, and Alice has a lot to deal with. Just as she was about to move out of the dorms, her girlfriend broke up with her after Alice confessed she was asexual. Her girlfriend basically pulled out all the things people shouldn’t say when confronted with asexuality, and this pushed Alice a little deeper into the closet. But still, she goes on with her life, promising herself a drama-free summer living with her best friend Feenie and Feenie’s boyfriend Ryan, and working at the local library to put in her fair share of the rent. All of this is turned on its head, however, when Alice begins to fall for a new employee at the library. Takumi slowly begins to take over her life, and Alice knows she wants to be more then just friends, but she’s going to have to tell him she’s asexual eventually, and based on her past experiences, she’s not sure how well that is going to turn out.
Although this book is classified as New Adult (NA), it is commonly placed in the Young Adult (YA) category because the main character is still in her teens. The main distinction between YA and NA is explicit scenes, like violence or sex, neither of which this book contains.
This book does asexuality justice, which makes sense considering the author Claire Kann is herself asexual. Alice talks about a lot of her past experiences with sex and relationships, which include both men and women, discovering her bisexuality, and how that label didn’t feel entirely correct. She also details some of her past relationships in which she felt pressured to have sex because of societal expectations, but how that isn’t something she wants to continue in the future. She also talks about how her biromanticism is, for the most part, easily accepted, and that her asexuality, on the whole, really isn’t.
About halfway through the book, Alice begins to see a therapist, and he gives so much important insight into asexuality and Alices own inner thoughts. He gives comfort to Alice about her asexuality, and helps her with some greater life struggles, i.e. conflict with her very strict parents. Some of the thing the therapist talks about might seem redundant to people with lots of knowledge about the ace/aro community, but as it is not yet widely known information, it felt completely necessary. The book felt as though it was gently informing people of a sexuality that they may not necessarily have heard of before, but it didn’t feel condescending or overly preach-y. It just existed to pass a message of asexuality on to the wider world.
Alice also talks a lot about love and what love should mean. She discusses how the majority of the world (and, unfortunately, one of her former partners) equates love and sex, and how those two things are actually very different. Alice loves love, and knows she is a sappy romantic, but has been told time and time again that love can’t exist without sex, despite her disinterest. This is another important discussion to have because no matter your sexual orientation, love doesn’t (and shouldn’t) equal sex, yet often times does because that has become the norm.
Another important topic in this book (which isn’t directly related to being ace but counts in Alice’s experience) is the fact that we see our main character in relationships with both guys and girls. Very rarely do we see a book with a bi character who ends up in a m/f relationship. This perpetuates a stereotype that for bisexual/romantic people to be valid they have to have been in a f/f or m/m relationship, which is not the case at all.
Although all of these things are amazing, there are also a few things in the book I took issue with, not really pertaining to the representation. For one, the friend who she moves in with at the beginning of the book doesn’t much seem like a good friend. Feenie, said friend, often blames Alice for problems that Alice was most certainly not entirely to blame for. And when Alice tries to get Feenie to understand that she isn’t being treated fairly, Feenie refuses to compromise and merely sulks until Alice apologises and begs for forgiveness, which didn’t seem like something she truly needed to do. And Feenie’s boyfriend, while being an important side character, was a bit bland and didn’t seem to add to the book what he could have.
All in all, this book has a loud voice when it comes to representation, and I would definitely recommend it for people who want to be educated more on asexuality, or for people who just love a good romance. Alice and her love interest had such a cute relationship, and watching them go from friends to something more was really sweet. I doubt an asexual who has been around for a while will discover anything new in this book, but it was a really fun ace read and a wonderfully wholesome love story that is highly relatable and adorable.