Ace Recs: 3 Realistic Books with Asexual Characters

Posted December 31, 2017 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Miscellaneous / 0 Comments

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Ace Recs: 3 Realistic Books with Asexual Characters

As is undoubtedly no surprise to anyone who’s heard of me, I really really love giving recommendations for books featuring asexual characters. As a reader and writer on the asexual spectrum, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen plenty of recommendations lists that are about asexual characters or that include asexual characters that repeat the same books over and over. Indeed, I’ve seen recommendations lists that explicitly stated that the handful of books the writer managed to find was all the asexual fiction out there. Considering it was missing several easy-to-find well-known and traditionally published books by respected authors… I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

But it is true that, for many readers, books with asexual characters in them are difficult to find. Many aren’t readily available in bookstores even when they’re pretty popular and well-respected. When I was in Cambridge, I saw displays of several books nominated for the Hugo Awards because they were nominated for the Hugo Awards, but Every Heart a Doorway? Couldn’t find a single copy anywhere. Not on display and not on the shelves. They didn’t stock it. And I wish I could say it was just one bookstore, but it was every major chain I visited. Likewise, in libraries you’ll have more luck finding books featuring asexual characters if you already know the titles before you enter. In both cases, you’ll probably have to ask the staff to order a copy specifically, so venturing into bookshops or libraries and hoping to find books featuring asexual characters just isn’t likely to happen.

Especially in combination with the way recommendation lists for books with asexual representation are usually styled, this difficulty to find books if you don’t already know they exist feeds into a negative spiral where recommendations lists repeat the same books over and over with the same note that this is all there is or this is all the writer could find. Yet there is so much more available to readers…

This is a series that aims to present small lists of books featuring asexual characters with some brief personal commentary on the books. Each list consists of 3 books centred around a single, relatively broad theme. While, sadly, I have had to restrict my recommendations lists to 3 books instead of the more usual 5 found in recommendations lists, each list does consist of 3 unique books. There are no repeats of titles in this series of recommendation posts. This series consists of 10 posts for a total of 30 books featuring asexual characters in various roles.

Unless otherwise noted, assume that books mentioned either seem to assume all asexuals are aromantic or that they’ll erase aromanticism altogether.

I hope you’ll find something terrific to read in these lists! Most all categories have more than three books I could put there, but as I mentioned I only had space for a handful of books or stories. If you’d like to see even more of then, check out Claudie Arseneault’s database of aromantic and asexual (speculative) fiction, which features many more books starring asexual characters!

This week’s theme is…

3 Realistic Books with Asexual Characters

Finally, after a good run of speculative fiction (or sort of adjacent to it), we’re down to the books set in contemporary or historical time periods! So if speculative fiction isn’t really your thing, this is the week for you! This week is all about the aces in realistic fiction (of which there are… so many more than I’d expected, wow, but I’m restricted to just three!) Let’s go see the books!

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…

She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

A YA coming of age read that tackles issues of identity, the pressure to succeed, diversity and freedom to choose, Radio Silence is a tour de force by the most exciting writer of her generation.

Radio Silence grew up prominence in Twitter circles I follow because it’s one of the first (well-known) books featuring a character who explicitly says he’s demisexual. Personally I’m not a fan of the framing of that scene (this is an understatement), but it’s a really fun book. It comes with trigger warnings for depression and suicide ideation as well as emotional abuse, though.

Also Frances is teen enough not to actually learn a thing. When I picked this up I expected it to be a romance between an allosexual and a demisexual, but this is a story that centres on and stars friendship. Romance, which is in the book, takes a back seat to the friendship between Frances and Aled.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka suddenly finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust in the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaption of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the 40,000 new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr gifs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with a fellow award nominee suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

Tash Hearts Tolstoy is another book that made a huge splash in the Twitter spheres I follow (and that I have yet to read; keeping up with ace books is an expensive hobby!) because it’s one of the only mainstream, traditionally published books where the narrator explicitly describes herself as asexual. There are some issues with the representation from what I gather, but from the sounds of most reviewers Ormsbee has done a pretty good job of writing Tash. And, you know, if you’re looking for a book that you’re likely to find in a bookstore or a library, this is one of the better bets.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Guide #1) by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Henry “Monty” Montague doesn’t care that his roguish passions are far from suitable for the gentleman he was born to be. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quests for pleasure and vice are in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

So Monty vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, dazzling, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an irresistible romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

This is, to my knowledge, one of two historical stories featuring an asexual character. Or at least, it will be until Lee publishes The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. Felicity is a secondary character in this book, as the narrative focuses on her bisexual brother and his gay best friend as the three of them start off on a Grand Tour of Continental Europe and then find themselves drawn into adventures and almost-quests in search of an alchemical cure that may (or may not) treat anything and everything. I found it absolutely hilarious and if it’s a little anachronistic, it uses that to fantastic effect. It’s also one of the most sympathetic historical novels regarding issues of sexuality, race and disability that I’ve read.

So it comes with trigger warnings for racism, ablism, misogyny and alcoholism.

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