Rating: (3.5 out of 5)
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 Claire Kann’s debut YA novel featuring Alice, a black asexual biromantic girl, as the lead. It’s this promise of amazing representation that made me pick up this novel, even though I don’t usually go for non-speculative YA. It’s not that I don’t like or respect the genre, but I tend to not enjoy it as much as speculative fiction. I just don’t get as easily invested when the stakes are interpersonal relationships rather than, say, the fate of the world, but I don’t feel like that’s a shortcoming of the genre.
However, I did feel like the drama in Let’s Talk About Love was sometimes overly manufactured, to the point where it honestly didn’t make sense to me. This especially goes for the conflict between Alice and her almost life-long best friend Feenie. Feenie’s issues with Alice seemed completely unreasonable to me, but that’s not how they were treated, which was confusing and frustrating.
In addition, the narrative voice tried a tad too hard to be whimsical, while missing the mark on humour for me. I was still able to enjoy it though, and I ended up being very invested in the outcome of Alice’s relationship with Takumi. And most importantly, the asexual representation made me feel so seen and understood.
I’ve never in my life read a book with an asexual main character whose asexuality was spelled out so explicitly. Although it irked me that the author chose to include objects and animals under aesthethic attraction, there were other passages that made me feel so happy. There is some ace-phobia that’s also intertwined with racism and the hypersexualisation of black women, but it is made clear that those attitudes are ace-phobic and racist. That doesn’t mean they might not still be upsetting for some people, hence why I’m including this warning.
Ultimately, though, I found this a heartwarming read. Let’s Talk About Love is going to be so important for so many asexual kids out there, especially asexual black girls, and just for that I’m glad it exists even though it didn’t tick all the boxes for me personally. And now I’m going to leave you with my absolute favourite passage from the book that may or may not have made me tear up a little.
I want someone to give me flowers and take me on dates. I want to fall in love and wear a giant princess dress at my wedding. I want to have a happy ending, too, and all that other magical stuff. I want what books and TV and the world has promised me. It’s not fair that I should have to want sex to have it.
Also, there’s good news for YA lovers: Claire Kann has another YA rom-com featuring a queer fat black girl and a baking competition, If It Makes You Happy, coming out in June 2019. It sounds great, so I’m definitely considering giving it a read.