Sunday, May 22, 2022

‘Loveless’ Review: A Compassionate Examination of Asexuality and Aromanticism by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper author Alice Oseman is hopping the pond again with her novel Loveless. The book originally released in the UK in July 2020. Now, Loveless is finally releasing in the US and Canada. While she created a charming story with Charlie and Nick, Loveless demonstrates Oseman’s ability to capture a different type of love.  

The Premise

Georgia Warr wants nothing more than to have a perfect romance like everyone around her seems to have. She longs to date and be kissed and have sex and fall in love. Unlike her friends, she’s unable to fathom actually doing any of these things. And she doesn’t understand why. When she begins university, she realizes she falls into the “A” category of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Through the school year, Georgia begins to explore her asexuality and aromanticism. Despite what real life and fictional media tells her – and her own long-term fantasies – Georgia is set on getting her life right. While uprooting everything she knows, Georgia discovers there’s more to love than sex and romance.

The A in LGBTQIA

Naturally, Oseman defines asexuality and aromanticism for readers. She goes about this in a couple different ways. For starters, she introduces Georgia and the feeling of knowing she’s not heterosexual (or heteroromantic, for that matter) despite not yet having the language to specify. This opens the door for Georgia to explore her identity and try to understand herself. Secondly, Oseman firmly explains asexuality and aromanticism. While this comes as no surprise, it’s important, nonetheless. I think the tendency for many is to forget that sexual and romantic attraction are two entirely different things. Oseman reminds readers why this distinction is so significant. Hearing the difference also allows Georgia her “oh” moment that propels her journey.

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Furthermore, Oseman’s defining also tackles the vast misunderstanding that surrounds asexual and aromantic people and how it manifests. One character in particular reiterates the negativity ace and aro people face not only outside the queer community, but also within it. Georgia’s made to feel as though she doesn’t belong. She feels ostracized because she doesn’t experience any sort of attraction to people. Her distress is discernible, and Oseman ensures that readers feel it right along with Georgia. But it’s necessary, and entirely truthful. In displaying Georgia’s initial estrangement, Oseman underscores who the A’s are in the queer community and that they belong just as much.

No, There’s Nothing Wrong With You

Along the same vein, Georgia’s feeling of otherness further bolsters the impact of the book. Firstly, I deeply admire the contrast Oseman draws between the type of media Georgia consumes versus her reality. For me, this is one of the book’s greatest assets. Early on, readers learn that Georgia doesn’t necessarily take any issue in reading about/seeing romance and sex so long as they’re confined to fictional mediums such as fanfiction. However, the continuous permeation of said topics in media misconstrues Georgia’s perception of herself. It’s a testament to the sometimes-unfortunate influence of media and societal expectations. Being surrounded by something so universally accepted creates deep-rooted feelings of self-hatred within Georgia. She highlights the damage things like virgin shaming and adults pushing relationships on young people can cause.

As such, Georgia believes if she does certain things (like trying to kiss or date someone), she can “fix” herself – despite being literally disgusted at the prospect. But “fake it till you make it” simply isn’t a viable option here. It’s also an important inclusion on Oseman’s part. Throughout Georgia’s journey, Oseman presents a form of mourning some may not consider. She shows readers how Georgia grieves for a lost typical adolescent experience. She struggles to accept the loss of her lifelong fantasies. It exacerbates her difficult road to self-discovery and acceptance. Still, she does work towards it. Thanks to her friends (who are sheer delights), Georgia begins to realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her.

Not So Loveless After All

As Georgia’s story exemplifies, romantic love is everywhere. It’s in television, books, movies, fanfiction, music – you name it. Romance can be nice for some, sure. But it’s not the end all be all. Life isn’t just about finding the right person for everyone. Oseman brilliantly emphasizes that. Georgia’s self-discovery reminds readers – especially ace and aro readers– that love and the subsequent joy exists in other places. It’s in the relief one can gain in finding an identity that suits them. Maybe it’s in self-acceptance and self-love. Or, like Georgia, the grand romance lies in platonic friendships – a theme intricately woven through the fabric of the book.

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Oseman brings such a compassionate lens with this story. Though titled Loveless, Georgia, and the book in general, are anything but. Readers will experience Georgia’s frustrations. They’ll see her internal struggle to accept herself as she mourns something she thought she could have. The warmth of her friendships seeps through the pages. Oseman’s writing is honest and tender and welcoming. She beautifully writes what she thoroughly understands. Her words practically scream “I see you” to ace-aro readers. Loveless is a profound and validating (platonic) love letter that everyone must read.

Loveless makes its North American debut on March 1. Pre-order your copy here.

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