While I cannot remember where I first heard about the book Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, as soon as I learned what it is about—a Black college student navigating her biromantic, asexual identity—I added it to my reading list without a second thought and began to look in vain for a nearby library that car ried it.
After days of fruitless searching, I finally gave in and ordered a copy online, telling myself if I didn’t enjoy the book, at least the cover was drop-dead gorgeous: It has a black, gray, white, and purple color scheme, just like the ace flag. Luckily, my concerns about disliking the book were soon dispelled.
The first thing I noticed and appreciated about Let’s Talk About Love is that it breaks the stereotype that asexual people are averse to all kinds of affection. Kann’s protagonist, Alice, is an excitable, touchy-feely person, who loves cuddling with her friends and telling them how much she loves them. Such portrayals of openly affectionate asexual characters are important in perpetuating the idea that asexuality, like any other orientation, is only one facet of a person’s identity and by no means determines how they should act or be treated.
I was also ecstatic Kann chose to portray a character who uses the split-attraction model to describe her orientation, meaning she separates romantic and sexual attraction—in this case identifying as both biromantic and asexual. While that model is not for everyone, I know many people—myself included—with no better way of explaining the way they experience attraction, and this book does a fantastic job of introducing the basics. Moreover, I believe everyone can benefit from reading this book, however they feel about the split-attraction model. If it doesn’t help readers understand themselves better, it can at least help them understand others.
Part of what makes this book so enjoyable and comprehensive, in my opinion, is its status as a Young Adult (YA) novel. It doesn’t require hours of analysis, and the story unravels itself nicely without the reader having to do much besides take in the words. Because of its genre, Let’s Talk About Love is a great way to familiarize people with concepts such as the aforementioned split-attraction model. Therefore, I would confidently recommend this book to an interested friend, as I trust Kann’s work to speak for itself and explain asexuality and its nuances with simplicity and ease.
Kann’s explicit use of identities such as asexuality in this novel is validating to me and others who use the same identities. For me, there’s an inherent difference between seeing a word in passing on various websites versus printed in a published book. While I didn’t read any books with canonically asexual characters until years after I began identifying that way, I imagine it would have made me more confident in myself from a much earlier age. I truly hope other people can read this book and benefit from it in a way in which I was never able.
The book also breaks certain negative stereotypes about therapy, depicting it not as something to be avoided whenever possible, but as a helpful tool that can be used as more than just a last resort. Such a positive attitude toward therapy is important for any audience to be exposed to, but I believe young adults especially can benefit from this message. While people of all ages should know therapy is nothing to be ashamed of, high school and college can be particularly turbulent times, so I am glad young adults are this book’s target audience. Moreover, any story that makes people feel better about receiving the help they need gets a gold star from me.
Another significant boon to this book is its diverse cast. Representation is always important, and this book does more than just portray biromanticism and asexuality— it also portrays intersectionality. For instance, among the cast are a Black protagonist, a Japanese love interest, and a Filipino best friend, all of whom are defined by more than just one identity, from their socio-economic backgrounds to their romantic orientations. This diversity invites a wider audience to enjoy the book and see themselves reflected in the characters.
Another aspect of Let’s Talk About Love that merits attention is how the media’s portrayal of life is addressed. Its flaws— primarily its tendency to cause people to hold unrealistic expectations for things such as relationships— are acknowledged, while the way in which it can instill hope is highlighted. As an avid reader myself, I have experienced how fictional worlds can cause people to be disappointed in their own lives. Yet this book shows readers it’s possible for such fantasies to be productive. Even if such perfect realities can never be attained, dreamers can still benefit by treating them as goals to work toward.
For college students, this book has it all. It is a quick and easy read that can serve as a wonderful stress-reliever during the school year, and it addresses relevant topics, including: tragic love lives; the struggle to pay for tuition; cutting back on unnecessary expenses to pay for said tuition; trying to maintain old friendships; and searching for a path in life that is both enjoyable and practical. Moreover, throughout the book, Alice shows understandable fear and apprehension, but also determination, which can be incredibly encouraging for anyone going through similar situations.
Perhaps my favorite part of this book is its optimistic ending. Interested readers should have no fears about the book sending an off-putting message. Personally, I found it incredibly uplifting and felt as though the ending tied everything together nicely, allowing me to close the book with a satisfied grin. Rather than being punished for who she is, Alice is rewarded in a big way for being her most authentic self.
Overall, I devoured the book in less than three days, and, after letting the contents stew with me for a week or so (and after writing this rather enthusiastic review), I have my final verdict: This book ranks at a solid four out of five stars. I’m a harsh critic who only reserves five out of five stars for the very best, but rest assured, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would happily encourage others to give it a try as well.