I borrowed the ebook of Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann from the library. Let’s Talk about Love is a contemporary queer YA novel, published by Swoon Reads, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, and was released in the UK in January 2018
Below is the Goodreads synopsis of the book:
Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
Let’s Talk About Love is another of the books I came to in my reading of books with asexual main characters. It came out only earlier this year, and although it didn’t quite work for me, I think it has a lot of things going for it.
We follow Alice, the main character, through a summer between college years. Her hyper-successful family are pushing her to make a decision about her major, and she’s living with her best friends whilst working at the library to earn some money. It works very well as a setting for a book, providing a discrete period in which to experience Alice’s life, as she’s on the brink of so many changes.
The main settings for the book are Alice’s flat, where she lives with her best friends, the library, and then Takumi’s flat. I particularly loved the library and Alice’s colleagues there, and the different perspectives they brought to her life. It was also entertaining to see her try to balance work with friends, her growing relationship with Takumi, and her education. I think this felt very realistic, and especially with Alice’s desire to be more independent than she had done previously.
As a main character, Alice is bright and bubbly, constantly looking for the positives in things and to forgive those who’ve upset her. It’s refreshing to have such an overwhelmingly positive character centre-stage in a YA novel, and even more so to see her examine that desire to please, and see how it might be affecting her life in less positive ways. The book also portrays the important message that therapy can be a great tool for people, and it’s great to see Alice explore some of the things she’s struggled with with her new therapist, and learn how to open up.
I think Alice’s asexuality is dealt with well in the book. Alice herself is not uncomfortable with it, but she’s hugely uncomfortable with the idea of talking to anyone else about it, with few exceptions. Even when she does talk about it, she talks around the word itself, which I think will be familiar to many queer people who’ve struggled to get the words out, even though they may be comfortable with those words themselves. I also appreciated the way she questioned herself, when her experiences gave her new information that she then had to fit into her existing perception of herself. And with Alice being alloromantic, it’s lovely to see how a romantic relationship can develop without any sexual component.
Race is also an important part of the book. From the microaggressions Alice experiences, to the expectations her parents have for her based on the idea that because she’s black, she has to be twice as good to get the half the recognition of her white peers, this book deals with many of the day to day realities of being a person of colour in the US, or at least that’s how it reads to me, as a white person not from the US. And with Takumi being Japanese, we get some of his experiences as well, as well as a super positive portrayal of an interracial relationship.
The last thing to talk about is the relationships in the book. For me, the development of the relationship between Alice and Takumi didn’t quite work, at least at the start. They seemed to go very quickly from ‘Alice is too awkward and can’t talk to Takumi properly’ to spending all their time together, and I didn’t really understand how that transition happened. However, I think that in terms of portrayed a developing relationship between an asexual person and an allosexual person, Kann did a good job: it’s not all sunshine and roses, but there’s none of the amisia that characterised Alice’s relationship with her ex-girlfriend, just a learning process that needs to be undertaken from both sides.
The friendship between Alice, Feenie, and Ryan is the other cornerstone of the book, and I think this is one of the book’s strongest parts. It’s uncomfortable, for sure, particularly as the friendship fractures over the course of the story and you wonder if it can be mended, but it feels very real. It also touches on a lot of issues which will be familiar to people who’ve been through those transitional years, when you finish college/high school and have to reconfigure your friendships to fit into the new world you now inhabit.
I think this book represents an important step forward in ace rep in fiction, particularly in YA fiction. Even though I personally didn’t love the book, I still think Let’s Talk About Love is a good book, and could be particularly important for young people figuring out their own sexuality and seeing asexuality represented in a positive way, and very particularly for young queer people of colour. Overall, although this book wasn’t quite my cup of tea, I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a cute romance novel with an ace heroine, and hope that it’s only the first in long line of books which put ace-spec characters front and centre, and treat them with respect.
If you enjoyed this post and want to be notified of future posts, please follow my blog here at WordPress, or at Bloglovin’.