Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: January 23rd 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
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.
Rating: 4 Stars
Caution warning: anti-asexual comments early on, including a breakup scene
Let’s Talk About Love‘s portrayal of an asexual character is the closest I’ve ever come to reading a book that represents me. It was amazing to, as I was reading, highlight passages that really pinged in my brain. Claire Kann did an excellent job of explaining what being asexual meant for Alice without coming across as patronizing. She acknowledged that there’s a spectrum to asexuality and did so in a way that I felt she’d really done the research rather than relying on stereotypes.
This isn’t a novel about one thing. There are passages about Alice’s experience dealing with potential romantic partners and her sexuality, her experience as a Black queer woman, and of being asexual and not always fitting into the queer community due to some people’s view re: asexuality.
Early on, she is separating from her girlfriend, Margot, who makes some racist remarks about Alice being Black and not liking sex, followed up by asking if Alice had been to a doctor about her sexuality. “Have you gone to a doctor?” is a line that highlight a big misconception about asexual people: that it’s a problem, something to be fixed. Coming from a lesbian character, someone whose sexuality was thought of the same way not too long ago (and still is sometimes), this remark is particularly hurtful. There are instances where Alice mentions people wanting to touch her hair and other microaggressions relating to her race.
Reading about Alice’s day to day interests was fun and furthered the connection I felt to her. From interior design to her pop culture tastes (Supernatural FTW!), she was a kind, intelligent, fun character to get to know. It was easy to sink into her mindset and see what she enjoyed about life. I appreciated the method of storytelling being in third person. Some may find it easier to relate to a character when first person p.o.v. is used, but my preference is third and in the case of Let’s Talk About Love, it was utilized well.
I can appreciate a slow burn kind of story and Let’s Talk About Love certainly felt like that, but there was something missing from the developing relationship between Alice and Takumi. There’s a scene where Alice is looking through pictures Takumi took of various times they spent together: dates, time at work, etc. As the reader, we never got to see these moments and so their impact on the story felt diminished.
Further to that point, when Feenie and Ryan, Alice’s friends and roommates, make the claim that they’ve been hurt by Alice spending so much time with Takumi and supposedly ignoring or replacing them, it feels more like Feenie is being controlling. Feenie’s already abrasive character, without the date scenes backing up a possible cause for her attitude toward Alice, comes across as controlling or emotionally manipulative. With the set-up of their close friendship, this viewpoint feels awkward and unfair to Feenie.
The secondary plot line, of Alice’s parents and siblings pressuring her to change her undeclared major to pre-law, felt like it lacked the punch of an unsupportive family. It wasn’t present enough to leave a lasting feeling and the climax of the situation felt bland. The story of Alice, her sexuality, and her relationships was much more interesting while Alice’s family’s plot came across as though it had been inserted for drama and didn’t follow through on that attempt.
So much effort was put into this book and it shows. Claire Kann’s debut novel should be considered her first step onto the young adult book stage where the spotlight is sure to shine.
About the Author
Claire Kann hails from the glorious Bay Area where the weather is regrettably not nearly as temperate as it used to be. She has a BA in English/Creative Writing from
Sonoma State University, works for a nonprofit that you may have heard of where she daydreams like she’s paid to do it. LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE is her debut novel.
I received a copy of this book as part of the Xpresso Book Tour from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.