Buy Let’s Talk About Love
Special price $7.80 Regular price: $10.99
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Format: eBook / Paperback
Reviewer: Melissa on June 23, 2020
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Let’s Talk About Love is a super cute YA romance starring Alice, a beautiful, Black, bisexual (minus the sexual aka biromantic), and asexual sophomore in college. Or in the words of Alice, it would rank at Cutie CodeTM Black.
Alice had her whole summer planned. Eating, binging her favorite TV shows with her best friends, and a dash of adulting—working at the library to pay her rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice said she didn’t care about sex). Alice is done with dating—for good. But then she meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade feels she has, but definitely did not ask for. 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 in this realistic, contemporary novel.
In the opening moments of the book, Alice learns that her girlfriend and college dorm room roommate, Margot is breaking up with her. While Alice never quite comes out and says that she’s asexual to Margot, despite what the official blurb says, the conversation makes it clear that Alice was right to keep her ace status private. Just like many bisexual and biromantic or transgender people are accustomed to experiencing biphobia and transphobia from both the straight and queer communities, so to does Alice face acephobic and extremely toxic comments from someone who supposedly cared about her. Margot just couldn’t get over the fact that Alice didn’t want anyone else to pleasure her.
That scene is honestly hard to read, and of course, it wasn’t the only toxic commentary that Alice experienced over the course of the novel. At various points in Let’s Talk About Love, perfect strangers would hit on her with racist messages and microaggressions, like saying she was beautiful for a Black girl. Whenever these acephobic or racist content came up, I felt my stomach clench up in knots as I saw through her eyes what it was like for a young Black queer woman to move throughout the world, recognizing that my white privilege makes me invulnerable to the same attacks.
When Alice first meets Takumi, the new employee at the library where she works, she can’t stop staring at him. He has effectively broken her Cutie Code, and nothing will be the same again. She even feels some aspect of physical attraction, forcing her to sort through her feelings about whether she’s still asexual or if she is greysexual—still on the ace spectrum, but sometimes sexually attracted to people when she has a strong emotional connection.
At the same time, it’s interesting how Takumi reacts to Alice’s type of interest in him. In particular, I appreciated that as a Japanese-American, he worried that she was only interested in him for how he looked and/or because he was “exotic” in some way, much like how a creepy guy at a costume party tells Alice that he’s never been with a Black girl as if her race was more interesting than who she was. Since Takumi has also experienced racism, there is a type of understanding between them that not everyone would get.
Spending more time with Takumi and not being able to balance her life and the various relationships within it causes a growing rift to continue between her and her BFF Feenie. Moreover, she is having a conflict with her parents and siblings regarding the career path they’ve chosen for her, which doesn’t align with her idea of happiness—deciding what she wants to do and telling them when she has will be equally difficult.
In addition, I wanted to share that Let’s Talk About Love is a sex positive novel. And yes, I understand that this may be a controversial opinion when I’m talking about a book with an ace main character. Why? Well, first of all, she is willing and able to do the necessary self reflection when her physical reactions after meeting Takumi call into question her asexual identity. By contrast, a lot of people who have a known sexual attraction to one gender would have a really difficult time coming to terms with their sexuality if they realized that they were attracted to the same gender or to people who experience gender outside of the binary, such as nonbinary or agender people, but Alice doesn’t have that problem. Moreover, Alice speaks directly to Takumi about what she’s okay with and what she’s not okay with well before there is a romantic connection between them. She admits that in the past, she had engaged in sexual activity solely because her girlfriend or boyfriend was pressuring her for it, but she’s created a new boundary and going forward, she’s not going to have sex just to please her partner. They also talk on the page (and suggests that they’ll continue the talk off the page) about what she would be okay with once they have established that they both like one another. A lot of books don’t deal with consent in the same direct way, so this aspect of Let’s Talk About Love really impressed me.
For the most part, I thought everything about this story was well done. I did, however, think that some of the conversations between Alice and her friends or her counsellor were a little awkward, and not just because Alice can be awkward in general. Rather sometimes the way the info about her asexuality was introduced or explained felt a little heavy handed. This is especially true of the first scene.
Let’s Talk About Love is highly recommended for those looking to do a deep dive into how someone on the ace spectrum might experience their attractions as well as how ones experience with anti-Black racism intersects with their experience with acephobia. I read it this past weekend as part of #QueerBlackathon, a 48-hour readathon in which you read as many queer, Black books as possible, and I’m so glad I did. If the cute factor of YA romances is your favourite part, then you definitely need to pick this one up!
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