Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books
Published on 9 July 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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The fourth novel from the phenomenally talented Alice Oseman – one of the most authentic and talked-about voices in contemporary YA.
It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I had ever met. What did that mean?
Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.
As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.
But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.
Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?
This wise, warm and witty story of identity and self-acceptance sees Alice Oseman on towering form as Georgia and her friends discover that true love isn’t limited to romance.
Loveless by Alice Oseman introduces readers to the complexities of aroace (aromantic asexual) identities mainly through the character of Georgia. This book delves into Georgia’s journey of self-discovery and acceptance, highlighting her challenges in understanding her aroace orientation.
Funnily enough, Loveless wasn’t my first ace book… or even my second. I didn’t realise I was ace until I was 35, roughly a year after Loveless was published, and I hadn’t even heard of it until I started looking up ace lit and Oseman got some more recognition because of Heartless and its TV show. When I found out the Heartless author was aroace I was like first of all, what? Second of all, did she write an ownvoices book? The answer is yes.
I also feel like I need to mention that I listened to this on audiobook, however I often found myself impatient when I had to stop listening, with a strong desire to pick up a physical copy and keep reading. I’m pretty sure that means I found the book highly engaging.
This novel holds a particular significance for those who identify as aroace or are on the aromantic or asexual spectrum. I need to acknowledge that one book cannot possibly fully encapsulate every aspect of aroace experiences, just as no single book can encompass all experiences of any group. It’s an impossible task, especially because aromanticism and asexuality both exist on a huge spectrum. I certainly didn’t feel that the book was focusing on Georgia’s sex-repulsed asexuality as the ONLY aroace experience. There are other aces present in the story: one of them is Georgia’s cousin, who has multiple sexual relationships and appears sex-favourable; while the other is a secondary main character who is a cool gay ace with romantic attractions. This diversity within the story underscores the existence of different facets of asexuality and aromanticism.
Georgia’s journey is a slow, methodical process, and her gradual understanding of her own aroace identity grows as she talks to other people and their experiences, both ace and allo, and personal research. The book is set against a binary backdrop where exploring one’s sexuality in your youth is the norm, and there is pressure to settle down with someone you meet at university, like Georgia’s parents constantly remind her. Even Georgia’s best friend knew she was a lesbian at age 15, which quite honestly blows my ace mind. It took Georgia time to unravel her feelings, but it always felt like her best friends had put her in a box and expected her to stay that way. It felt like Georgia’s friends (I stress, not the book itself, but the characters) all thought that once you turned 18 you were supposed to know exactly who you are and what people you’re attracted to, and that weirdly, experimenting, testing, or being unsure was really frowned upon.
However, Georgia wasn’t the only person in the novel to have a sexuality awakening, which was really lovely. Rooney, the sex-positive and sex-favourable pansexual character brought a nuanced perspective to the story, notably by emphasising the importance not of sexual relationships but of platonic relationships. She cherished her bond with Georgia, embracing the idea of lifelong platonic soulmates, showing that love and friendship can coexist harmoniously outside of sexual relationships. The novel really pushed the concept of platonic love being just as important as romantic love, which I liked.
There were some things that I didn’t like in this book. I understood why Georgia felt the need to ‘experiment’, especially since there’s so much acephobia out there, with people asking ‘How do you know you’re asexual if you’ve never had sex?’ In my opinion, Georgia’s actions with Jason are acceptable, and the thing that bothers me is that Jason was completely fine with them breaking up when he thought they just weren’t compatible or into each other in that way, but he suddenly became very angry when he found out Georgia was questioning her sexuality and blamed her for ‘using’ him. It was only after Georgia confided that she may not be into anyone, not just him, that Jason slammed the door on their friendship, forcing Georgia to apologise… and I didn’t understand why she was apologising. I didn’t feel Georgia was using him. People break up all the time for any number of reasons, including not having chemistry. I felt that Georgia’s justification of “If I can’t fall in love with my best friend then who can I fall in love with?” was fine, and the fact that Jason got mad only after he found out Georgia was ace really bothered me. It felt like acephobia. Like, stick to your own lane, ace people aren’t allowed to date anyone kind of thing, which is something I’ve experienced in real life, and that attitude really bothered me. It was good to see it in the book, but I’m not sure if everyone else will pick up on that, or if they’ll just agree that Georgia was bad because she ‘used’ him.
Similarly, Georgia apologizing to Pip for kissing Pip’s unspoken and unacknowledged crush seemed uncalled for. Georgia and the crush were both made out to be terrible people for doing this, but no one was dating anyone, and Pip hadn’t even told anyone about her crush – it was just Georgia’s astuteness and observation that picked up on it. Everyone pushed University as a time to find love, so I didn’t understand why this action was so bad. It was an experiment rather than a relationship, which left me questioning why an apology was necessary. Outwardly Pip acted like she hated her crush, and the crush didn’t appear to show any interest in Pip, so it wasn’t like anyone had any kind of ‘claim’. It wasn’t like Pip had cried on Georgia’s shoulder for the past 3 months about how much she liked her crush while they were dating someone else, and then Georgia had gone to an exclusive event behind Pip’s back and seduced the crush because if the crush was a little interested in Pip then they should also be interested in Georgia. Or did that just happen to me?
In the end, I felt that Loveless offered a nuanced and multifaceted exploration of aroace identities. It may not resonate with everyone, but it serves as a crucial step in expanding the representation of asexuality and aromanticism in literature, demonstrating that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to aroace experiences.