The rules of the romantic comedy are simple and easy to learn, especially when you’re in love with the concept of love… but what if you’re an LGBTQIA+ teenager and this formula has historically cut you out? Well, you have to tweak those rules to make your own.
He laughed again and hid his face under the blanket. “Why are you so nice to me?” “Because I’m an angel.” “You are.” He stretched out his arm and patted me on the head. “And I’m platonically in love with you.”
Alice Oseman, Radio Silence (2016) p.108
In 2017—somewhere on the stumbling journey to identifying myself proudly and loudly as asexual—I read Alice Oseman’s young adult (YA) novel Radio Silence. When I reached the passage quoted above, I stopped in my tracks. It was the first time I had seen those words put together to such an effect. Friends could say they loved each other, of course, in a fleeting and fluffy sort of way. But to imply that you could be in love with someone in a purely platonic way? That you could refer to something as a love story even if it was about characters who were “just” friends, who never even thought about dating one another? It was a little bit revolutionary.
But that, of course, is the revolutionary heart of aromanticism and asexuality—the quiet, but resonant, revolution inherent in the articulation of different kinds of love, in the deconstruction of the dominant social narratives of romance and sex. As I kept my eye on Oseman’s forthcoming novels, it transpired that this revolution sits at the heart of her writing, making them deeply resonant for aro/ace readers even when not featuring the identities directly. And when they do feature aro-ace identity directly, the quiet revolution is front and centre, and the results are incredible and incredibly important.
YA is one of the most versatile and interesting fields of publishing right now, full of a glittering spectrum of stories of all genres and protagonists from all walks of life and identities. And you know me, I love a good coming-of-age story, whatever shape it may take… and what better way to celebrate those many shapes than to review three wildly different, but all brilliant, YA novels together? Let’s dive in! This time round we have psychological thrillers, we have mythology retellings*, we have ruminations on fame and friendship and fandom. Continue reading →
It’s Asexual Awareness Week, which means that though I’d do it any time of the year, it’s the optimal time of the year to recommend and gather recommendations of media with asexual protagonists. Today I want to talk about two brilliant geeky YA novels with main characters that are not only relatable, complicated, and funny, but sit on a perhaps lesser-known place on the asexual spectrum: these are two characters who are confirmed as demisexual.
Demisexuality is when you only begin to feel sexually attracted to people once you form a strong emotional bond with them. The most common misconceptions about it tend to be that the demi in question is just “picky” and chooses to get to know people first, or that they’re no longer, or never really were, asexual at all once they find someone they like enough to be attracted to. As with the many grey areas along the ace spectrum, it can be a tricky thing to both explain to people and define for yourself, especially given how society so easily conflates romantic, aesthetic, and sexual attraction all together as one big amorphous thing when they’re really separate and very different feelings—and, as always, different for every individual person!
I know that I’m somewhere under the ace umbrella, but finding an exact word to define my unique, personal scenario has kind of felt like I’m a sleep-deprived detective staring at a conspiracy board trying to link evidence together with bits of string. While I’m still bumbling along trying to figure myself out, it was immensely rewarding and heartwarming to read these two books where characters (who are younger than me, mind you) get to not only find happiness in their ace identities and have fulfilling relationships, but get to be the stars of moving and engaging stories.
He laughed again and hid his face under the blanket. “Why are you so nice to me?”
“Because I’m an angel.”
“You are.” He stretched out his arm and patted me on the head. “And I’m platonically in love with you.”
“That was literally the boy-girl version of ‘no homo’, but I appreciate the sentiment.”
Radio Silence p.108
[This post is mostly spoiler free! Minor spoilers are noted when they appear.]
Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence has rocketed into place alongside Fangirl and Afterworldsto form a sort of holy trifecta of YA books that effectively present and deal with fandom and creativity. Though, interestingly enough, out of those three Fangirl stands out like a sore thumb for being comparatively super straight and super white. But Radio Silence stands out, to me, as well as for being a book about creativity, for being a book that is overwhelmingly and positively about the love between friends. Which, though it’s an integral part of most people’s lives, you don’t normally see as the star concept of a novel.
Radio Silence follows seventeen-year-old British-Ethiopian study machine Frances Janvier, who knew she wanted to get into Cambridge University as soon as she heard of it at age ten and figured that was where the smart people went. She became Head Girl so it would look good on her Cambridge application. She has read hundreds of books she can’t really get her head around so the list will look long and impressive in her Cambridge interview. She’s not really friends with any of her friends because what she’s best at is studying, and when they make fun of her for being boring her immediate response is always “fair enough”. Her only spark of passion outside the Cambridge goal is a surreal sci-fi podcast called Universe City, which she secretly adores and spends her spare time drawing fan art for. So imagine her surprise when the podcast’s creator asks her to do the official art for the show… and imagine her double surprise when the creator turns out to be a quiet and unassuming friend-of-a-friend she knows in real life. Continue reading →