This is the third book in the past couple months that I’ve read from Swoon Reads. And as I mentioned in the reviews for my earlier choices (Queens of Geek and Emergency Contact) I have been really impressed with their content! The books are all nice, light stories, with a perfect amount of romantic and interpersonal drama, that read quick and easy, as a nice rest between heavier reads. And, without exception, the diversity and representation are spectacular. Plus – look at that cover! I am not usually into covers with people on them, but this one is just wonderfully visually striking and I love it.
This particular story is all about Alice. She has two best friends, Feenie and Ryan – they’ve been a threesome since they met, but are starting to drift apart now that Feenie and Ryan are engaged. She has a loving, if slightly overbearing family, which has been fine for years, but now they’re pressuring her to go to law school and she knows that isn’t for her. She has an insanely good-looking new colleague at work, Takumi…but she is having a hard time sorting out her feelings for him. Because there’s one other thing about Alice that almost no one knows: she’s a biromantic asexual. And she’s struggled for years with what that means for her romantically. This book is all about Alice as she tries to figure that out while living the rest of her life.
“Love shouldn’t hinge solely on exposing your physical body to another person. Love was intangible. Universal. It was whatever someone wanted it to be and should be respected as such.”
There were some things I really loved about this book. The first, and most obvious, is that it addresses a severely underrepresented sexuality. That’s actually why I picked this one up in the first place. I saw it on a list of LGBTQ reads and it was one of the first I’d ever seen (other than books by Alice Oseman, and if you read my review of Radio Silence last year, then you know how much I love it) that addressed asexuality. The bi piece of it was just a wonderful added bonus. In any case, that part of the book was beautifully developed. I don’t have a lot of knowledge about asexuality and this book does a really wonderful job of explaining and developing and exploring what that means. It makes it clear that it’s a spectrum, that different asexual people experience feelings of romance and attraction in different ways. Just as with everything else, there is no clear definition or answer, which makes things extra complicated for the person themselves, as well, of course, as anyone they want to have a relationship with. The way the Alice deals with figuring out what it means for her, internally, felt very authentic to me. I also really liked the way the counselor Alice sees was portrayed. Although it is, of course, not always the case, I am glad that it was a positive experience for her. Showing that speaking to someone to help sort things out is an important message. I also appreciated that, while Alice struggled with this for herself, she pushed away her friends, even though they were very supportive. This is so real! And last, I definitely have a little book crush on Takumi. He’s (as we hear often) super attractive, thoughtful, he cooks, and it’s clear that he has great emotional range. In fact, I think there’s a chance he’s too perfect to believe, but in a book like this, that’s kind of what I’m looking for. And he’s the exact right type of person to place opposite Alice as she works through some bad past experiences and learns that there’s a chance to have the relationship she’s always wanted and own who she really is.
On the other hand, I was less enamored of other parts of the book. Alice’s relationships with her family members just didn’t hit right for me. It’s not that they weren’t realistic or possible, it was just that I wasn’t feeling that part of the story. It was a good device to use as she got closer with Takumi, an area of her life other than her sexuality that he could support her through. And it worked similarly with Feenie later in the story. But I just didn’t get into it. Also, I enjoyed some of the quirks and quick back and forth between Alice and Takumi, but it did get lost in itself sometimes. There were a couple points where I had to reread the dialogue because it lost me…and even then, I didn’t follow some of the jumps. And last, Alice herself, as a character, definitely got on my nerves a few times. I know she was dealing with a lot, and I don’t disagree with a lot of how she felt/reacted, but…I just got frustrated with her being annoyed that her friends didn’t understand her, but simultaneously refusing to confront or speak with them about what she was going through or why she was irritated with them. And it didn’t happen just once, but over and over – I think that, by the end, it got to be a little too much for me.
“The bottom line was her body had never shown so much as a flicker of sexual interest in anyone. But that didn’t mean she liked being alone. That didn’t mean she wasn’t lonely. That didn’t mean she didn’t want romance and didn’t want to fall in love. It didn’t mean she couldn’t love someone just as fiercely as they loved her.”
Overall though, I’m really glad I read this book. I really felt for Alice and so many times I just wanted to give her a hug and say that she is who she is and there’s nothing wrong with her. She is beautiful and important and exactly what she was meant to be. And anyone that tells her, or even suggests, otherwise is just plain wrong. So, I am glad this book exists, to help teach people and make a norm of something that is considered abnormal. To that end and, as a light, swoon-y, read – I’d recommend this one.