Asexuality in YA

Asexual Awareness Week may have ended over the weekend, but our search for ace and aro representation never ceases! Today we have a roundup review of five YA novels published this year that feature characters on the ace and/or aro spectrum.

tashTash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
Simon & Schuster, June 2017
Reviewed from hardcover

Tash, a high school junior and webseries creator, identifies as “heteromantic ace”! She has zero interest in sex but definitely experiences romantic and aesthetic attraction towards guys—her most recent crush being another vlogger named Thom. Having only recently come out to her two best friends (in what she describes as a “botched attempt”), she struggles with determining how much she wants to share about her asexuality, with whom, and when. While coming out to Thom doesn’t go well, Orsmbee’s own-voices novel ends with Tash taking a leap into a relationship with one of her best friends, Paul, who has thought carefully about their potential relationship: “Now, listen. I would. Rather. Hug you. Than be with. Anyone else. Just. Hug you. Do you. Want to. Hug me. Back” (357-8) (*swoon*). For anyone on the ace spectrum (*waves*), Tash’s descriptions of simultaneously feeling sure of her identities and unsure of how to navigate them in an allosexual-dominated society will resonate and her happy ending will provide hope. —Kazia


vanillaVanilla by Billy Merrell
Push, Oct 2017
Reviewed from ARC

One of the three main characters of this book is asexual, but I would not recommend this book for its representation. Allosexual characters’ bigotry toward the asexual character is frequent and mostly unchecked. The story is built on some troubling ideas that perpetuate harmful attitudes toward asexual people. Vanilla is a multi-voiced narrative about a pair of teens, Hunter and Vanilla, who came out as gay together and have been dating since middle school. Hunter wants to have sex, Vanilla doesn’t; Hunter pressures Vanilla to have sex. Vanilla’s asexuality is problematized; Hunter’s sense of entitlement to sex and his manipulation of Vanilla is not. Their supposed sexual incompatibility is presented as the cause of their break-up, with Hunter asserting that if only Vanilla had discovered the label ‘asexual’ sooner, he would have known what the expectations were (and, presumably, they never would have dated). Vanilla’s perspective offers forgiveness instead of pushback, and the continued inclusion of Hunter’s perspective validates his hurtful views and abusive actions. It’s a shame, too, because there were things I would have loved to recommend this book for—the writing style, the agender rep—and yet, I won’t be handing this one off to anyone. —Dani


burning cityDaughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Harlequin Teen, July 2017
Reviewed from ARC

While I wouldn’t recommend this book on the whole—there’s some pretty intense ableism/magical disability tropes and underwhelming worldbuilding—it’s pretty unique to find a love interest whose demisexuality is respected by both the protagonist and the author. Narrator Sorina finds herself drawn to mysterious Luca, who (after their relationship develops) describes himself as tumblr-textbook demisexual: “I guess I don’t just look at someone and think…attraction [. . .] It takes, I don’t know… I have to care about the person first” (253). His coming out to Sorina is a multi-step process, but it’s one she respects all the way through, including verbally asking for consent and dialoguing with him about it. The thoughtful demi rep deserves applause, but it’s disappointing the care taken to Luca’s identity wasn’t exhibited elsewhere. —Kazia


radio silenceRadio Silence by Alice Oseman
HarperTeen, March 2017
Originally published in the UK by HarperCollins Children’s Books, Feb 2016
Reviewed from ARC

In her post about Ramona Blue, Kazia wrote about that fist-pump-inducing feeling of finding certain words on the page. I had a similar experience while reading Radio Silence, which has a prominent supporting character who identifies as demisexual. Using that language. (This demi reader is about it.) Finding the label helps Aled explain his way through the miscommunication he’s been having with his allosexual partner, Daniel. Aled gets room on the page to clear up Daniel’s misconceptions about how he experiences romantic and sexual attraction. It’s all around awesome. In addition to the solid ace rep, there’s plenty else to recommend Radio Silence. It’s full of three-dimensional queer characters, it’s incredibly readable and well-paced, and it goes interesting places in its treatment of subject matter. —Dani


ggtvav coverThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Katherine Tegen Books, June 2017
Reviewed from hardcover

Lee’s sophomore novel features Felicity, a secondary character who is on the ace spectrum and possibly the aro spectrum! Check out Kazia’s post about Gentleman’s Guide here.




What are your favorite books with ace- or aro-spec characters? What do you think of 2017’s representation in YA? Comment below and join in the discussion!

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