Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan
Publishing Date: January 23, 2018
Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting—working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice told her she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating—no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.
But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).
When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
Straight up, I wish that I’d had Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love back when I was a teenager trying to figure out who I was and what the heck I was doing. Like me, Alice is the baby of her family. She’s the youngest daughter and a surprise baby to her parents who have to be in their mid to late fifties in Let’s Talk About Love.
This book seriously matches so much of my experience as a queer, Black, lady-oriented person that’s on the ace-spectrum that I kept having to put the book down in order to squish my own face.
(In case you didn’t know, face squishes are the HIGHEST sign of my pleasure when reading.)
I decided that I needed Let’s Talk About Love when I saw people squeeing about how the novel was about a Black biromantic asexual and her Japanese-American love interest. And then I read the first three chapters and got smacked in the face with a character whose experiences with asexuality, dating, and like life were kind of a lot like my own.
Let’s Talk About Love starts with a bad breakup and Alice dealing with some truly ridiculous (and racist) microaggressions from her recent ex. I’m going to be honest, that’s when author Claire Kann had me. One of the things I look for in books about a-spec characters is that acknowledgment of how Black aces and aros are treated and how we’re sort of extra othered. Kann writes Alice recognizing, dealing with, and talking about the experiences she has and like… they’re all largely things I’ve experienced as a queer a-spec babe who’s also Black.
But that’s not all! Let’s Talk About Love has a small-ish, close cast (Feenie, Ryan, and Takumi are the characters you see the most), but all of them are pretty darn fleshed out aside from their relationships with Alice. Alice is a huge part of their worlds which was awesome to read as a Black person (like wow, I want some of what Alice has), but they’re also characters who are in turns vulnerable and powerful, and real. (And really bad about communicating their needs and feelings…)
Feenie and her fiancé Ryan are adorable (and a wee bit infuriating at later points). I mean, the Halloween/costume party chapter and the aftermath literally stressed me out because hello, having roommates that are also datefriends means that you’re almost always the third wheel. And that is terrible. Being the third wheel gets tiring after a while and of course, you never win arguments or movie night choices.
But I loved Feenie even as she frustrated the heck out of me. She’s a tough girl with a goopy heart and I just… if I wasn’t absolutely Alice, I think I’d’ve identified with Feenie way more.
And then there’s Takumi.
Look, Takumi is like prime Book Boyfriend™ material. How is he so perfect? HOW? He’s not like one-dimensional at all and he’s got weird things about him and flaws that are present in the book. He’s a character that reads like someone you’d see in one of your classes and like… he’s such a great character who really loves his nieces.
Claire Kann wrote a book that I needed when I was the same age as I think Alice is in it. But it’s also a book that I needed to read now. There are several things about Let’s Talk About Love that 2018 Stitch needed to see. It’s a book that manages to speak to my experiences not just with my sexual and romantic orientations, but with my family and friends. With my Blackness and how my identities intersect. Reading the validation and necessary criticism that Alice gets at times was incredible and I mean, I cried for like the entire final third of the book because I was feeling so many things. (True story: my best friend kept laughing at me because I’d look at them, incoherently babble something about LTAL through my tears, and then go back to reading.)
I can’t imagine how this book would’ve changed my life if I’d read it at age 17 or 18.
This book, y’all… it’s very much a novel that validates Black aces and aros, their experiences, and their right to figure out what they want from their lives and relationships. Straight up. I recommend it if you’re a Black a-spec babe (it feels so damn good to be represented) or if your only experience to a-spec people in fiction is through a white lens).
Aside from mentions of racist microaggressions through the book, this book also has a potentially triggering scene near the end of chapter 15 where a drunk guy gets really creepy and inappropriate to Alice at the costume party (so sexual harassment with a racist component). Alice gets away from the guy and makes it outside, but it’s definitely not an easy scene to read despite that.