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Let's Talk About Love

Review

Let's Talk About Love

Alice has her whole summer planned out...until she doesn’t. After her breakup with her girlfriend, Alice swears off dating. She is going to spend her summer having fun, but taking some brief time to "adult" by working at a library to pay her rent. At her job, she meets her new co-worker, Takumi. Alice quickly falls for him, leading her to question her identity as biromantic asexual. When her summer quickly falls to pieces, Takumi is there for Alice every step of the way. The closer they grow, the more Alice questions the best way to tell him how she feels.

Let’s start by briefly discussing two irrelevant, but also incredibly relevant, things that immediately increased my hype for this novel.

For one, I love seeing a woman of color on the cover for LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE. There was a long period of time in the publishing industry where minorities were not able to see themselves represented on the page because, for whatever reason, it was accepted that either: a) the concept would not sell or be attractive or b) there were not enough writers to produce the content that many catalog as “diverse books.” Within the past few years, this issue has been majorly rectified. All across the book community, readers and writers alike are praising diverse titles and encouraging others to read more widely. Minorities can more easily find stories that represent their identity, which is incredibly encouraging. Novels that proudly display this aspect for all to see without even having to dive into a single page very much earn my support.

"The characters within this novel are entirely three-dimensional and human to the core. The dialogue contains a nice balance of humor and seriousness that allows for a continual flow of plot. There is nothing more that I could ask for from Claire Kann’s debut."

Secondly, the tagline for this novel is hilarious and entirely refreshing. Upon picking up LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE and reading the slogan, “Alice is about to ace this whole thing,” I immediately thought of the promotional material for the adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA, which has been incredibly effective in selling the film to a wide range of audiences and helping to draw mass appeal in a time where pop culture, as a whole, is strongly immersed and supportive of LGBTQIA+ community. It is becoming more and more clear that titles, regardless of whether they are books, movies, or tv shows, that embrace their diverse elements in their branding are more likely to be successful. The book community is starting to learn that diversity sells and it is a truly beautiful thing.

Commentary on the outside of this novel aside, everything within this book is just as beautiful. The asexuality representation in this book is phenomenally developed and well-stated. The characters within this novel are entirely three-dimensional and human to the core. The dialogue contains a nice balance of humor and seriousness that allows for a continual flow of plot. There is nothing more that I could ask for from Claire Kann’s debut.

This is the second novel I have read that prominently features asexuality representation, the first being TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY by Kathryn Ormsbee. As much as I loved Ormsbee’s quirky contemporary, I strongly feel that the ace rep in LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE is much more expanded upon.

There are so many quotes within this novel that I found myself flagging because they perfectly summed up everything that I knew and understood about asexuality, as someone who is coming into their own identity as Alice is throughout the novel. When readers meet Alice, she is going through a break-up with her girlfriend who is having a hard time understanding why Alice does not reciprocate her emotional attraction. After this experience, Alice swears off dating until she meets her new co-worker, Takumi. She feels strongly drawn to him, but is also coming to terms with her identification as a biromantic asexual. It is made clear to the reader that Alice feels isolated within her sexual identity. She feels that her friends, family and those who she will come to meet will not understand her. Throughout the novel, Alice feels lost because there are so many people out there who do not grasp the manner through which she processes her emotional and sexual attractions. A quote that really stuck with me throughout the novel that perfectly encapsulates this idea is as follows,  “Love shouldn’t hinge solely on exposing your physical body to another person. Love was intangible. Universal. It was whatever someone wanted it to be and should be respected as such. For Alice...It was a confidence in knowing no matter what happened that person would always be there for you.” (Kann, 9) This quote and many others had me vigorously nodding my head in agreement. There are so many beautiful lines in this book that perfectly help explain asexuality for those who may not understand it. Because as much as we may not like it, the reality is that many are uneducated about this type of identification because it is not as easy to pinpoint as many others. Reading a novel that takes the time to fully explain, with ease and clarity, the mindset of someone that identifies as ace was entirely refreshing and wholesome.

A contemporary novel cannot be successful without its characters. Their mannerisms, thoughts, feelings, identities and emotions all impact the course of the story and how they respond to the developing plot. Each character needs to feel like a separate entity, each with their own ideas of how to respond to the world around them. As a reader, I need to feel that I can pull the characters out of the novel and visualize them within the real world.

Kann perfectly accomplishes this task. I fell in love with each of the characters, not only because of the way they interacted with one another, but because they each felt as if they were truly their own living persons. A favorite character for me was Dr. Burris, the counselor Alice comes to in order to discuss some of her private issues with her sexuality. Although he is a more minor character, every time he appeared on the page Dr. Burris reminded me of some of my favorite teachers. As a student, you spend a lot of time within the classroom --- sometimes more than you do at home. When you have a teacher you really love, it is easy to confide your problems to them and know that they will provide a helpful source of advice and comfort. I immediately got this vibe from Dr. Burris and loved seeing him on the page time and time again. The scenes between him and Alice are some of my favorites because they produced the most honest and raw dialogue in the discussion of asexuality and the plethora of other conflicts Alice experiences throughout the novel. Based on the way his character was crafted, it is almost impossible to read from him and not immediately think of an influential adult figure within your own life. I was truly impressed with the way his character was able to touch me, considering he is not even one of the more prominent figures within the plotline. This fact truly says something about the manner in which Kann is able to craft all of her characters, big and small.

LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE presents a truly honest depiction of what it is like to come into your skin as an asexual. The characters and dialogue help to truly reinforce this theme, while allowing the readers to connect to the story in their own unique ways. Kann’s debut is a masterpiece that highlights what it is like to love --- whatever that means to you.

Reviewed by Gabby B., Teen Board Member on January 27, 2018

Let's Talk About Love
by Claire Kann