So… earlier this month, I did a Twitter thread about books with asexual characters that are out RIGHT NOW. Also I read the vast majority of them and can vouch for the rep being at least decent in my opinion as someone who a) is acespec, b) has read around 100 of them, c) devotes at least some of her time to analysing how ace rep is handled in books in general, d) writes acespec characters herself. You can take as many grains of salt as you like, but I figured why not go all out with the credentials. If nothing else, it gives you context to see where I’m coming from, after all.
Anyway! It was fairly long thread. It’s not the first I’ve made and it won’t be the last. But I did want to collect it all in one place so I have at least one list that’s easily linkable if I need it (or if anyone else wants it).
Below, then, is the original list as I posted it to Twitter. The only thing I didn’t do was embed the image to show you what my tabs were like partway through. Everything else is exactly as-is.
Have fun exploring books! 😀
I am tired. I am cranky. I am also going to put my money where my mouth is and give you all that ace rep thread that I sort of mentioned earlier today. Strap it, get ready, and be prepared to find some of your new favourite reads.
So, first things first, let me point out that one of the first books with an explicitly asexual character is from 1984. That would be Keri Hulme’s The Bone People. Its protagonist, Kerewin, is asexual/commonly considered to be asexual.
This, if you’re curious, is a passage discussing Kerewin’s asexuality.
And here is the goodreads page because, in true me fashion, I kind of forgot to add it to the first tweet:
Prior to… around 2010 or so, the way that quote discusses asexuality is the norm for describing asexuality in fiction. Books from around 2010 and later, especially those that aren’t SFF, are more likely to explicitly include the term ‘asexual’.
This makes sense because the terms ‘asexuality’ to describe this sexual orientation didn’t really exist until 2001 and then it needed some time to catch on and, from there, find its way into fiction. But this isn’t a thread about the history of terminology!
No, I mention it because stories with asexual-coded characters existed long before 2010 did. (See, again, The Bone People by Keri Hulme if you want a good example of such a book.) You just won’t find them represented explicitly. It’s often subtextual representation.
For example: Did you know that Kel from Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small quartet, first published in 1999, is canonically asexual and aromantic? I bet you didn’t, but here you go:
Goodreads page to the omnibus edition in case you want to check it out:
Disclaimer: I have no opinion on the way either of these two books handles asexuality. I’m bringing them up because they’re two very well-known (and in case of Pierce, much-beloved) bookish things that people may or may not realise feature asexual characters.
I have yet to see any kind of discussion of asexual representation in books acknowledge that these books exist and I firmly believe that the narrative these discussions hold to – that virtually no media with asexuals exists and ace rep only started in about 2010 – is the cause.
(Disclaimer: That belief is currently more gut feeling based on reading every scrap of discussion about ace rep I could get my hands on in the past decade or so than in-depth research I can hand you concrete sources for.)
Okay, so by now you’re probably looking at this thread going “Yeah, yeah, Lynn. You promised this would be a recommendations thread. Why are you talking about the history of ace rep instead of GIVING ME MY RECOMMENDATIONS. T_T”
That’s simple. This is a thread I’m making in the wake of YET ANOTHER big name going, effectively, “Oh, I researched asexual representation and there’s nothing out there. So sad! We need more!” which… yes, we need more. *Technically* they’re not wrong.
But that dismisses the fact that there are, AT LEAST, 300+ books featuring asexual characters (although the rep may be dubious if not outright harmful) and that you can find AT MINIMUM 60 of those titles by spending, like, five minutes just googling “asexual characters books”…
Seriously, anyone who is all “There is so little ace rep out there. So sad” did LESS THAN THE BARE MINIMUM in researching the existing asexual representation in fiction. I’m sorry, but they did. 🙁
I know it’s easier for me to find books than many others because I know where to look – I only spent 5+ years looking, after all! – but I PROMISE YOU that if you do some very basic google digging you will find enough books to keep you, personally, reading for at least a year.
So. Bear with me a little longer while I go through some of my credentials and then the celebration of books with asexual characters can begin! Well, begin properly, that is.
(As always, standing offer that allowing time and availability, I am happy to help you find specific books. Just let me know if you’re looking for something specific and I’ll try my best to help you find it!)
Anyway, after that very long ramble, hi! I’m Lynn. I’m a demiromatic and demisexual SFF author and literary critic. I write stories featuring characters who are asexual and/or aromantic and I talk about asexual representation in fiction.
Currently, I’m very slowly doing a series of essays looking at how specific books handle asexuality in their narrative in preparation for more general essays on ace rep. You may know me from this essay on ace and aro tropes in fiction:
And, um, that’s it about me. You can find more about me by checking out my profile or exploring the website I just linked to. Let the thread of books featuring asexual characters begin! WHOOT!
Okay! Um. My mentions kind of exploded, so this thread got derailed a bit, but I have closed the tab with my notifications now, so let’s get to it!
Firstly, if you’re looking for asexual representation in general, the @AroAceDB is a FANTASTIC resource to start looking because it’s a very detailed database for both asexual and aromantic representation and it lets you finetune what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a specific identity (for example “biromantic grayasexual”), you can set up filters so the database only returns books with that particular combination. Very helpful if you’re looking to find someone like you in a story!
.@FYeahAsexual also maintains a database that includes non-bookish media with ace rep. We do also appear in other forms of media! 😀 (Just… with nowhere near the frequency of books.) You can find a link to that here:
Let me start by highlighting Sere from the Green by Lauren Jankowski. This is the first book in an urban fantasy series starring an lead on the asexual spectrum. I’m not a fan of urban fantasy, but if you are I highly recommend checking it out!
The Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones is historical f/f fantasy with a demisexual lead. It has some spoilers for the first book, but stands on its own well. If you like intricate politics and Ruritania, check it out!
The King’s Peace by Jo Walton is one of my all-time favourite books with aroace rep. (TEAM SULIEN!) It’s Arthuriana and honestly one of the most well-thought-out fantasy settings I’ve ever read. Adored it to pieces.
City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault features an all-queer cast with several asexual characters as its core pov characters. If you like D&D-inspired settings with a focus on community, found family and hope, check them out!
We Awaken by Calista Lynne is a contemporary f/f YA fantasy about two asexual characters falling in love. It’s also about depression, grief and calling out microaggressions aces experience. Ashlinn and Victoria’s relationship is SO CUTE.
Keeper of the Dawn by Dianna Gunn is another YA f/f fantasy novella with an asexual lead. If you’re looking for an ace warrior, look no further! It may disappear indefinitely after December 31st, though, so snap it up quickly!
No More Heroes by Michelle Kann is an urban fantasy/superhero narrative which features a predominantly asexual and aromantic cast. It’s fast-paced and PERFECT for readers who visualise. The choreography in this book is breathtaking!
Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson is a scifi novel with an asexual lead and an m/f subplot. Tori is a STEM genius and now she’s in hiding while a genetics lab has decided to come after her.
Thaw by Elyse Springer is an NA contemporary f/f romance with an asexual lead. (No, the ace isn’t the Ice Queen, it neatly subverts that particular trope.)
Er, if these all seem like pretty random ways of recommending books with asexual characters, that’s because it is random. This is what my browser bar looks like right now. I pick a tab at random.
For something a little different that I can’t find on GoodReads yet, Noel Arthur Heimpel recently started a new webcomic featuring SEVERAL acespec and arospec characters. Find details on their comic and a teaser here:
Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp features a questioning ace character, Corey, and is a mystery that deals frankly with the harm inspiration p0rn does to people with disabilities.
Hello World by Tiffany Rose and Alexandra Tauber also features an ace lead (and counters the solitary ace narrative). It’s a near-future cyberthriller with an m/f subplot.
And I REALLY want to say “If you like The Matrix, check it out” about that book, but IDK if that’s just me misremembering The Matrix significantly or a comparison people will agree with. Still, go check it out if you like stories about hacktivism and hacking in general!
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee is an ace-led contemporary YA story (m/f subplot) that I suspect many of you will have heard of. It’s also a lot of fun.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman features a demisexual deuteragonist and is All About Friendship. It’s YA contemporary with a bisexual lead about the ways in which we can mess up and try to make things right again.
(Radio Silence is possibly the first book – and almost certainly the first traditionally published book – to explicitly use the term ‘demisexual’ on the page, btw. In case you were curious about random trivia like that.)
As Autumn Leaves by Kate Sands is another contemporary f/f YA about an alloromantic asexual learning that she’s not broken. Deals frankly with the kind of bullying that asexual teens deal with RIGHT NOW. Also includes sports, kinda, if you’d like that!
If you’re more interested in academic nonfiction about asexuality, Asexualities edited by Megan Milks and Karli June Cerankowski is a pretty good place to start. Covers asexuality in a variety of different disciplines:
Oh, yes. There’s nonfiction about asexuality too! It’s AWESOME!
If you’d rather a more pop-science introduction to asexuality, though, I’d recommend checking out The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker:
And if you’d rather something that is newer than 2014 or so, check out @AsexualJournal which is created and edited by a two-spirit poc. They do amazing work, so be sure to give the journal a read!
Back to fiction now, though!
Chuck Tingle’s Not Pounded In The Butt By Anything And That’s Okay is a sweet story about an asexual relationship. This is one of the few stories/series in this thread I haven’t yet read (’cause Amazon won’t sell it to me), but others have found it quite validating!
(I can’t seem to find it on GoodReads, though that’s likely because it’s still very new. It only came out on the 8th of this month, after all.)
The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz is a scifi f/f romance that I had misgivings about initially (I thought Sal, the robot, was the only ace! She’s not! Clara is too!), but I ended up really loving it because it’s so sweet and cute.
Stake Sauce by RoAnna Sylver features queer vampires, powerful disability representation and a grayromantic grayasexual lead in an m/m/m/m polycule. It is SO GOOD. Pixie is the best vampire. <3 PROTECT PIXIE!
All Note Long by Annabeth Albert is adult contemporary m/m with a demisexual lead. I really liked it when I read it. Just. Know that I will fight for Michelin’s happiness, the cinnamon roll. Also features one of the most adorable dogs in fiction.
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee is another book with ace rep that I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of. I’ve not had a chance to read it yet, but oh do I want to. I loved Felicity in the first book and now SHE HAS HER OWN. I WANT.
Curved Horizon by Taylor Brooke is contemporary (very light alt-earth) f/f with a demisexual lead. It has MASSIVE spoilers for book 1, though, which also features the lead in this book as a secondary character.
Demonosity by Amanda Ashby has an asexual secondary character and is great fun if you’re looking for a book that spoofs Buffy and stories like it. I wanted it to take itself a little more seriously, but it was very entertaining even then. 😀
Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss is a contemporary f/f NA romance with an ace lead that is just THE most adorable story. Like, this is adorableness distilled into novella form and it’s PERFECT for the upcoming holiday season at that!
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is… possibly one of the first books with ace rep people hear about. I LOVED it the first time I read it (not so much the second), but if you want a queer-led portal fantasy (of sorts) & a great creep factor, get it
Oh, look! I can ALMOST read the titles in my browser window again and I can actually see what I’m selecting before I click on the link!
The Traitor’s Tunnel by C.M. Spivey features an asexual deuteragonist, Teddy, who gets to have an m/m relationship that’s already established before the story begins. About family and standing up for oneself.
The Fire’s Stone by Tanya Huff features ace-coded Chandra, a princess and Wizard of the Nine who gets caught up in a quest to save Ischia from being buried in lava.
I once heard an anecdote that Tanya Huff said that she would 100% have made Chandra explicitly and deliberately asexual if she’d know about asexuality when the book was written, but I’ve never been able to confirm that or find the source for it. 🙁
Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith features an asexual lead. This is single-book political fantasy at its finest. Falls into some ace fiction tropes, but I love Emras and her attempts to do the right thing. <3
Oops. Well, it was inevitable that I was going to break the thread at some point. I’m impressed I seem to have got this far!
Wait. How is it this late? When did it get this late?
The Second Mango by Shira Glassman features a demisexual deuteragonist and a geeky lesbian queen. (SHULAMIT FOR NEXT DISNEY PRINCESS!) This is a very fun quest adventure with dragons and queer characters.
Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari features TWO acespec leads in this YA science fiction adventure with time travel shenanigans and corrupt governments.
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann is a gorgeous contemporary m/f ace romance with Black biromantic asexual lead. It’s very cute, though the first chapter is pretty hard to read since it’s a lot of anti-ace commentary aimed at Alice.
Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault is a stunning solarpunk/superhero story featuring a bigender aromantic lead and a demisexual deuteragonist and one of my fave books two years running. (Disclaimer: I edited it.)
Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski features an asexual lead in this near-future science fiction. If you like competitions like Masterchef (or want your Hunger Games without all the death and a lot more NASA geekery), check this out:
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver is hopepunk or the most hopeful and positive dystopia ever, with multiple asexual characters and masses of intersectionality. Explicitly debunks ace tropes in fiction. It’s awesome!
Novis by Rachel Tonks Hill features two ace secondary characters. Have you ever wanted Beowulf in space with a Black lesbian lead? Well, I didn’t know I wanted it until I read it. It was soooooo good.
Help Wanted by J. Emery is an NA fantasy novella with a gender and sexuality questioning f/m romance. It is THE DEFINITION of adorbs. Em is lovely and I adore her. It’s so sweet and lovely.
Mindtouch by M.C.A. Hogarth is a NA slice-of-life science fiction novel centring an m/m queerplatonic relationship. I would die for Vasiht’h who is the biggest cinnamon roll to ever cinnamon and deserves ALL THE HUGS. And cookies. Also cookies.
soft in the middle by Shelby Eileen is definitely worth looking at if you’re looking for poetry about asexuality. I never have words for poetry, but it was so soft and precious and warm.
Lastly, I’d like to note that Kitay from The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang is confirmed as aromantic asexual in an interview: http://fantasy-faction.com/2018/r-f-kuang-interview-the-poppy-war
OMG. It took me, like, four hours to write up this thread? And, like, THIS IS JUST A SELECTION OF THE ACE REP I’VE READ (and a few I haven’t yet).
Fun fact: I’ve only noted when books were second in a series, but A LOT of the books I’ve linked are actually part of a series, so there’s a good chance that if you like the books you found interesting there’s more where that came from!
I also tried to stick to a “One book per author” rule. Which I know I broke a few times, but I tried. If you like a particular book, be sure to check out the author’s other work too. A lot have written more than the books linked!
And, because it is now ridiculously late for me, a friendly reminder that I, too, have written books with asexual leads and deuteragonists. I actually released The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion earlier this month. It’s fairy tale f/f with TWO ace leads!
Claudie Arseneault, maintainer of the amazing @AroAceDB, also has rec threads! And they include lots of books I haven’t mentioned (because I haven’t read them yet)! Here’s one of them!
Oh, wait. Um. Apart from writing books, I also have a Patreon where I write about ace rep in fiction, talk about my writing (or share it!) and do lots of other geeky things:
Sadly, I have no ko-fi. For one-time support, I recommend buying one of my books and that way you get shinies too! Look, I was GOOD and ACTUALLY REMEMBERED to put this at the end of the thread. GO ME!
Disclaimer: this is 100% because I’m way too tired for anxiety to talk me out of it. And I should go to bed now and try to sleep instead of staring at my notifications in mortification. (But they exploded and keep on exploding. O_O Like what.)
Okay. I am muting this thread for the night because then I can pretend Twitter WON’T send push notifications to my phone and maybe anxiety will let me actually sleep. (I may not have thought the timing through here. )
My apologies to anyone whose tweet I may miss because of that, but I hope you’ll forgive me. This is going to be the third day in a row where I haven’t been able to sleep until, uh, ridiculous in the morning and I’m a “wide awake, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 4:30” person.