Loveless by Alice Oseman blurb:
It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I had ever met. What did that mean?
Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.
As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.
But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.
Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?
Loveless – Alice Oseman
I loved this book. Which is apparently a very unpopular opinion. And to be entirely honest, I feel like I’m going to be shamed for this opinion because others don’t feel the same way. But, I’ll talk about this a bit later on.
This story focuses on Georgia, our main character, and her journey to discover who she is. I started off feeling really sad for her, because no one should feel like they are broken, but also I get where she was coming from. See, some people don’t know their sexuality when they’re a teenager – it’s not always totally obvious. I thought I was straight, and then I kissed a girl one night. And then I just thought kissing girls was kind of normal (all the drunk girls did it), until I fell in love with one.
To be honest, I don’t even think I really knew what bisexuality was until I was in my mid-twenties. So I get what Georgia is going through. I can empathise with her confusion. And this is HER journey of discovery. And sometimes Georgia screws up along the way. This is also relatable, and important, and likely very true for all of us. Which makes this story so relatable, even if you don’t identify as aro/ace.
I really love the focus on friendships in this story. Georgia has a totally unique friendship with each of the other three primary characters. And by the end of the story, they have all changed or grown. Sometimes the road there isn’t a straight one, and sometimes it’s not a happy one. But they are all important in their own way. In particular, I love that Georgia acknowledged that she totally fucked up, and tried to fix the issues. No, it’s not perfect, but neither is life. And I don’t know that her friends always did right by Georgia either. But we can either learn to accept and forgive, or we can hold grudges and be bitter forever. I like that they chose to move on together. Plus, all of them (except Sunil who was amazing) are hot messes.
But maybe she needed to hear it out loud.
“Because I love you,” I said, “and you deserve magical moments like that.”
I also think this book does a really great job of showing what one experience of being aro/ace is like. Again, this isn’t the same experience for everyone (more later), but it is ONE character’s experience. And this story could be the snowflake that causes the (hopeful) avalanche for more diversity in stories. But the way that Georgia explored her sexuality and questioned herself and doubted and wished she was “normal” and was just so confused for so much of this book was so realistic. But also the way that once she figured out what was important to her, she grew as a person was really lovely.
The story gave a uniquely real feel of what university can be like. So many books are all “University is fun and sororities and heaps of parties and I LOVE MY LIFE!!” My uni experience was not that at all. It wasn’t entirely like this either, but there were definitely elements that felt similar. I don’t know if that’s because the Australian system aligns more with the UK system (and is nothing like the US system), but it felt authentic to me. Having to build a relationship with a total stranger that you are suddenly forced to share a bedroom with is a WEIRD thing, which I felt was captured accurately. Having to pick classes and join societies and figure out who you are while maintaining grades and old friendships can be EXHAUSTING. There are adjustments to make. I really liked how this was explored within the wider plot.
There’s nothing bad here, just a couple of things that were hard to read in parts. However, that was more to do with the content and the themes of the story. This might trigger you, so it’s good to be aware of things.
The friendships in this story are beautiful but extremely complex. There has been a lot of discussion about Georgia “using” her friends, especially Jason and Sunil.
“Why do things have to be so complicated?”
“Ah, the eternally wise words of Avril Lavigne.”
Now, Georgia and Jason have a super complicated relationship, and I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but I also don’t think the fault is entirely Georgia’s. Jason ignored Georgia’s unease, and pushed his feelings onto her in some scenes. Yes, Georgia screwed up too, but this relationship is a two-way street. (As are all relationships.)
Georgia and Sunil have a super new friendship. I don’t know that you can take much from this, except that he mentors her (which was exactly how their relationship started). Yes, Sunil helps Georgia learn acceptance and to be true to who she is. And I agree, Sunil is definitely giving more in this very small section of their hopefully very long relationship. But I also feel like Georgia contributes too. It’s not as entirely one-sided as some people are making it out to be. Georgia shows Sunil how to have fun, and gives him the space to just be without wanting something from him. That’s worth a lot when you’re under pressure, and nothing to be sneezed (or sneered) at.
And now we come to the crux of what I was alluding to before, which is neither positive or negative – it’s just how people are going to view it. I don’t think Alice meant this story as the ‘be all, end all’ as to what aro/ace is, and it certainly is never indicated as such in the book. (Although I do feel like this book is a little bit of a love letter to her younger self, which is beautiful in its own way.) Aro/ace is a spectrum, and not everyone feels the same way about everything, and not everyone is on the same place on the spectrum. There is no right or wrong way to be aro/ace.
But I also feel like that’s the same with all of the amazing queer contemporary fiction that has come out lately. Not everyone will have the same coming out experience as Simon (Simon vs) or Emmy (Brightsiders). Not everyone will have the same relationship challenges as Abby (Jordi Perez) or Jack (Jack of Hearts). And no one disputes this fact at all.
But this is why stories are important: to show different personalities and to help us learn empathy for other people and their situations. Not all aro/ace people will feel this way. But some might. And all of this is ok. You do you. This is just ONE perspective. But it’s definitely an experience worth reading, because the themes of self-acceptance might be something you need.
Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for providing me a free copy to review.
All thoughts and opinions are my own.