Loveless by Alice Oseman

Loveless is a YA novel about a girl starting university and working out she’s asexual, whilst seeing that she doesn’t have to have the exact uni experience that she pictured herself having before she came. Georgia is just starting at Durham, alongside her best friends from school Pip and Jason, and though she’s never been kissed or had a crush, she loves romantic stories and is dreaming of one of her own in this new setting. Instead, she finds herself sharing a room with someone who is much more outgoing than her, not enjoying going to clubs, and risking friendships as she desperately tries to prove to herself that she can find love, but maybe she’s been too focused on certain kinds of love and things aren’t as fairy tale straightforward as Georgia has been imagining.

I’ve never read an Alice Oseman book before, though I’ve heard of her books and particularly her webcomic Heartstopper, but the premise of this one made me know I had to read it. The setting was well-realised (I went to a similarly archaic uni and found freshers week to be similar in its weird combination of club nights and old traditions) and the supporting characters are varied and interesting with their own hints of narrative, but what is perhaps most notable is the protagonist coming to terms with being asexual and aromantic. Georgia’s thought processes will have relatable moments for a lot of people who aren’t used to seeing these things depicted in fiction, particularly some of her more negative thoughts around herself and her own future, but Oseman balances this with Georgia working out how to accept herself and to build new visions of the future. As someone who found certain parts of Georgia’s experiences very relatable, it was exciting (and sometimes difficult) to read her fairly typically YA story of self realisation, but with these particular experiences.

The story also explores other characters who don’t think they have a romantic future for various reasons, including Georgia’s lesbian best friend and a character struggling with a past abusive relationship, and this works well to show that different people are going to need to find different forms of self-acceptance and support, from romance but also friendships (these characters also get a fun enemies-to-lovers situation). There’s also some undercurrents of how people don’t have one typical ‘university experience’ (though in this case it’s quite different from most people’s starting uni as Georgia has her two closest school friends at the same place), which is also pretty relatable, but will also help with teenage expectations of university and the fact you might actually be more yourself rather than reinvent yourself.

Ultimately, Loveless is a witty YA novel that tackles characters struggling with their sense of self and the future of their lives and relationships. The writing style isn’t necessarily aimed at me, a twentysomething adult, but it was a gripping story and a good depiction of the complexity of the social side of university. As a book by a high profile YA author, it will hopefully share the experiences of someone working out being asexual and aromantic both to people (teenagers and otherwise) who need to see these narratives in relation to themselves and to people who might then understand how other people might feel.

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