Oseman, Alice. Loveless. Scholastic, 2022. 432 pp. ISBN 978-1338751932. $18.99
For Georgia, the idea of relationships and intimacy gives her the warm and fuzzies, but the reality disgusts her. She is lucky to have two close friends, Pip and Jason, who are attending university with her (in a different college), but she is lonely and desperately wants love and partnership at the beginning of the novel. At uni, she’s surrounded by people with crushes, dorm mates having sex and getting “college married” (a unique Cambridge University support system that involves an elaborate proposal and creating “family” relationships). Her roommate Rooney is an accomplished and confident flirt and Georgia wants to be just like her–no, she wants to BE Rooney. When Georgia confides her desires and insecurities to Rooney, Rooney offers to be a wing-woman, doesn’t judge Georgia for her lack of experience or initiative, and suggests Tinder, which just confirms for Georgia that she’s really not attracted to anyone. A Kinsey test online reveals no sexual preferences. She tries to date Jason, but it’s forced, and doesn’t end well. Meanwhile, Pip is crushing on Rooney, who is a casual sex queen.
A Pride Soc(ial) introduces Georgia to a group of people who appear to be comfortable in their own skins in a way she longs to be. Luckily, Sunil, the British equivalent of an RA, is the President of the Pride club, and takes her under his wing in a fairy god-parent sort of way and explains the asexuality spectrum and the difference between romantic attraction and sexual attraction. Suddenly, a whole world of just being is opened up.
Georgia’s stream-of-consciousness narrative, wondering what’s wrong with her that she’s eighteen and never been kissed, is authentic and real and the voice is probably the best thing about this book. The Shakespeare thread throughout the novel is nothing less than brilliant, given how the bard plays with gender. The friends revive a Shakespeare Club, intending to put on a performance of a selection of scenes; Romeo and Juliet is the theme of the college’s dance near the end of the semester. Short chapters make this a fast read; funny group texts, an allusion to The Secret History, lots of drama and angst and uncertainty, and Scooby Doo and Shakespeare stanning make it a delightful read.
Georgia’s confusion slowly gives way to self-acceptance, and love and understanding from her friends. A bonus set of chapters and asexuality/aromantic resources conclude the novel. Really, this is a story about a platonic friendship hitting all the milestones of a traditional romantic relationship, and Rooney grows as much as Georgia. I think this is the first aromatic, asexual (aro-ace) novel I’ve read, and it helped me understand aro-ace in the way The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime helped me have a better understand of autism.This is a powerful book with representation of a voice not often heard from in literature, and is strongly recommended.