“… you are not broken and I don’t ever want to hear that again.”
There is a lot to like about Let’s Talk About Love – the biromantic asexual representation, the POC protagonist and love interest, the subtle discussion of microaggressions and even the university setting. Unfortunately, just because there is representation that does not mean that representation is done well.
Writing as someone who identifies as asexual I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately, it just did not work for me. While I appreciated what it was trying to do, the representation at times felt like ticking boxes on a diversity or ‘quirkiness’ checklist. Look, the protagonist isn’t just POC, she’s asexual and biromantic! She works at a library! She eats a lot (gasp)! She watches these particular TV shows that the readers probably also watch!
From the outset, the writing style, and subsequently the character of Alice, came across as juvenile, and not in an endearing, quirky way. Her infatuation with Takumi felt almost immediate, and the way in which she gushed about her feelings was rather off-putting. There was the occasional use of text messages throughout the book when what was being said could be clearly conveyed in prose. On almost every page we are told more of Alice’s thoughts and feelings in parentheses, leading me to believe the book should have been written in first person, rather than in third. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is all well and good, or not so good as the case is here, but what is this book actually about?
The plot focusses on three key issues in Alice’s life – she has a huge crush on a guy but she can’t tell him she’s ace or they’ll have to break up, her parents want her to go to law school and she doesn’t want to do that, and her best friend is jealous of her spending time with someone else. The entire book consisted of her avoiding phone calls with her parents and siblings, ‘quirky’ conversations with her love interest, Takumi, and fighting with her best friend and best friend’s fiance. While the petty friendship drama did convey an understandable underlying fear of feeling left out and explored the balancing of friendships and relationships, overall Let’s Talk About Love felt very flimsy in terms of plot. It often felt as though certain incidents were included purely so that particular discussions could happen, rather than anything that would move the story forward.
“Alice’s inability to say ‘being asexual’ plagued her […] She could check off all the little boxes. But she wasn’t sure it was a title that she had necessarily wanted everyone else to know. She didn’t want to be known as Alice the Asexual […] Being asexual would trump everything about her, good and bad and weird.”
Although it may not seem that way from this review, there is a lot to like in this book. Unfortunately, for me at least, these things are buried by the lack of plot, awkward writing style, and overuse of the phrase ‘Cutie Code’. I’m sure there’ll be others who will embrace this book, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Or piece of cake, rather.