Rating: 4 stars
Alice's girlfriend dumps her because she can't really handle the fact that Alice is asexual and while she's perfectly willing to engage in sexual acts to please her girlfriend, she herself doesn't really get much out of it. Dumped and heartbroken, Alice swears off dating entirely. She moves into the spare room at the apartment of her two best friends (who are a couple) and is determined to power through the summer enjoying good food, binge watching TV and working at the library.
The only problem? There's a new guy, Takumi, working at the library and he makes Alice feel all sorts of new and unwelcome things - especially since she's sworn off dating. Convinced any non-asexual potential partner is likely to be as put off by her asexuality as her ex-girlfriend, Alice is adamant that she and Takumi should only be friends. Because they really do click pretty instantly, and she starts spending a lot of time together. Enough time that Feeney, Alice's BFF is beginning to feel jealous. On top of all her confusing new feelings and having to find time for Takumi, Feeney and Ryan (Feeney's boyfriend and Alice's other flatmate), Alice wants to change her major at college and her parents do NOT approve. Everyone in Alice's family has studied law, and her parents see absolutely no future in studying interior design, which is Alice's passion.
I picked this book for the "Underrepresented" square in the CBR10Bingo because it fits into the category in SO many different ways. The author is a woman of colour, sadly a very underrepresented group among romance writers. The heroine is an asexual (but not aromantic) and bisexual black woman. The hero is a handsome Asian guy. Also, unlike a lot of New Adult books featuring college students, Alice actually seems to struggle with her course load, not to mention financing her studies - issues that rarely seem to actually feature in these stories.
What I liked:
- The characters. Alice is a wonderful protagonist, but she's by no means perfect. She's young and inexperienced in many ways. She loves her two BFFs, but is also jealous of their relationship and frequently feels like a third wheel. She may overreact a bit in throwing herself into her new friendship with Takumi, pretty much ignoring her old friends entirely. Feeney and Ryan, her two besties, both feel real and are both supportive, but sometimes disagree with her. It's clear that Feeney, especially, has quite the volatile personality and for quite a bit of the book, she and Alice stop speaking, because of foolish decisions made on both sides. Finally, I'm not sure Takumi is created entirely to prove that Asian men totally can be convincing and very attractive love interests, but he's almost too good to be true. Handsome, charming, thoughtful, works to become a teacher, good at cooking, a talented photographer.
- A book about asexuality that doesn't feel like "a very special episode". This book is clearly in part supposed to help romance readers get an understanding of what asexuality actually involves, but is a very satisfying and well written story, not just a PSA about this one thing. Alice craves love and is very tactile. She loves cuddling and has no problems with romance. She just doesn't care for sex. It does absolutely nothing for her, and being dumped by Margot (on top of having had some less than great dating experiences in the past), Alice is beginning to worry that she's doomed to spend her life alone.
- Fandom. Alice is a big old nerd, who writes articles about various "ships" and is generally the sort of person I suspect I would love to hang out with.
- Showing the value of therapy. Alice is young, inexperienced and conflicted on a number of levels. She's encouraged to see a therapist (even though she's reluctant at first) and her sessions help her become more comfortable, not only with her own sexual preferences, but with standing up to her parents and taking a stand about her future plans.
Unlike a lot of NA romance, this book doesn't really feature sex, what with the heroine being asexual, but there is plenty of swoon and a very satisfying romance between Alice and Takumi nevertheless. I'd seen this book recommended in a bunch of places before I saw it on the FYA list, and can see why so many people have responded so enthusiastically to it. Well worth a read.
Judging a book by its cover: I love this cover, even if the heroine is described as most often having her hair carefully braided rather than in a big afro like here. Having a beautiful, confident looking and happy black woman gracing the cover, with the pretty purple letters of the title catching the reader's attention - it's a nice cover and it makes me smile when I look at it.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.