Thanks to Mackenzi Lee, Victoria Schwab, Claire Legrand, and Destiny Soria there are now four more novels that feature asexual representation and I can’t believe it has taken this long.
Within the last month or so there have been four books released with an asexual main character. Not only that, but they are also diverse on top of depicting the A in LGBTQIA+ that is rarely written well (so far) in fiction.
For those who don’t know, asexuality is when someone feels no sexual attraction towards someone else. Just like other sexualities, it exists on a spectrum and it can vary from person to person what it means to them. There are different kinds of attraction, (sexual, romantic, physical, emotional, and aesthetic) and asexuality simply means that they don’t feel one of the types of attraction, sexual attraction. For more information, check out Asexuality.org.
Before now, there haven’t been many asexual characters depicted in media in general. Barely a handful, they usually have the characteristics of a robot, sociopath, or are just emotionally stunted, most often with a neutral alignment and are somehow “broken”.
Growing up, I always assumed that Sherlock Holmes was asexual, with his detached air and seeming complete disinterest in the opposite sex sexually because all he cared about was the case. He may have been, and will continue to be in my mind, but all-in-all it isn’t representation if one has to draw the line themselves.
Varys, otherwise known as the Spider, in the Game of Thrones series is asexual, but is described as such because he is a eunuch. There are issues with this, mostly because, to me, this simply means that the only way someone couldn’t feel sexual attraction is if they don’t have the means to be aroused. Not only that, but Varys is unfeeling, conniving, and he is a skilled manipulator and that doesn’t sound like good representation, either.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, the first book in her YA Wayward Children series, features Nancy as the main character, an asexual girl whose door lead her to a world of quiet and stillness. Now, as much as I adored this book and the others of this series, as well as having asexual representation, the fact that Nancy only wanted to be a statue, still with no emotion, left me feeling bereft, as if the only representation for asexuality would be the characteristics of someone who is unfeeling and detached.
In The Raven Cycle’s final book, The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater had her character Henry Cheng joke that he was “Henry-sexual” in an attempt at asexual representation that merely left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Not only because it was thrown in as a joke that he only loved himself, but also that it was seen as representation at all.
Fast forward to September and October 2018 when the amount of asexual representation in books grew tenfold with the publication of four novels with main characters with asexual orientation, either stated plainly within the text, or the actions of said characters depicting the aspects of asexuality throughout.
Each book handled depicting asexuality differently, some I liked better than others, but overall I don’t think I could be happier with the level of representation in the last month alone and can only hope that this is only the beginning of seeing asexual fictional characters in the spotlight.
Books with asexual characters
Vengeful by Victoria Schwab is the much anticipated sequel to Vicious, a series where the main characters are all villains in their own way. Prior to the release of Vengeful, Victoria tweeted that Victor Vale was asexual and that it would be canon in Vengeful. Victor is not Victoria’s first LGBTQIA+ character, with both Rhys Maresh and Alucard Emery in her Shades of Magic series lying somewhere on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum as well.
The way that Victoria depicted Victor as asexual was simple: at the beginning of one chapter she took a mere few paragraphs to explain that he didn’t feel sexual attraction. She didn’t use the term explicitly, but the emotion shown in those few paragraphs, that felt so natural within the scope of the series, was perfect.
Canon is tricky in Shades, since characters should be presumed queer unless stated otherwise. But Rhy is canon Bi and Alucard is canon Gay. In Vicious, Victor is ace (canon in Vengeful). https://t.co/QW0gz6Cytz
— Victoria/V.E. Schwab (@veschwab) June 5, 2018
Sexuality doesn’t need to be the plotline. In fact, I liked that it wasn’t. Vicious and Vengeful aren’t Coming of Age novels, but speculative fiction with complicated timelines, plots, and character dynamics. The series isn’t about Victor’s sexuality, but it just so happens that he is asexual.
Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria has a diverse cast with POC, multiple LGBTQIA+ characters, and even a plus sized girl (which is also rare to behold in fantasy). Each character has point of view chapters and get their own subplot within this fascinating whirlwind of a standalone fantasy novel. No nonsense Alys, a plus sized girl who has the ability to read runes, is asexual. She cares about her found family and her brother, Evander, and like Victor Vale, her plotline doesn’t revolve around her sexuality and it works well within the story.
She shares point of view chapters with four other characters, so insight into her feelings doesn’t go too in depth, but the representation is inclusive and doesn’t perpetuate the devoid-of-emotion stereotype by making Alys’ reactions volatile and her heart kept on her sleeve throughout their tumultuous journey as she and her friends try to save the world as they know it.
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee is the sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, whose main characters were gay and bisexual. Lady’s Guide follows Felicity Montague as she attempts to go after her dream of becoming a doctor in the Victorian era. Felicity is goal oriented and has no interest in love or marriage, with her turning down a marriage proposal within the first chapter of the book.
Felicity is known to be cold, emotionally distant, and rarely shows feelings. Now, this perpetuates the stereotypical characteristics of asexuals having no feelings and are essentially robots, but I believe this isn’t only due to her sexuality, but her personality as a whole. She is reserved, rather self righteous, and honestly not very relatable. She grows a lot as a character throughout the book, which helps as she opens up more and shows emotion eventually, but for representation it isn’t my favorite.
Not only is Felicity asexual, but she’s also aromantic. Not all asexuals are also aromantic, which simply means the lack of romantic attraction. One thing that Mackenzi Lee did that I appreciate in terms of Felicity’s growth is that not only did she stand up for herself in turning down a marriage proposal, but she kissed a girl and decided that all in all, it didn’t matter if it was a boy or girl, that neither was something that she wanted to do, which gives a sense of relief that not everyone wants the same thing and sexuality is fluid.
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand has the best asexual representation that I’ve read to date. Zoey, a POC social pariah in a small town full of rich white people where girls keep going missing, is asexual. One of three main characters in a story seeping in urban legend and eerie happenings, she also isn’t the only LGBTQIA+ character.
Unlike the other stories I’ve talked about, Zoey’s plotline has to do with her sexuality. It isn’t her only plotline, more like a subplot, but it goes more in depth than any other that I’ve read. Zoey and Grayson used to date, but after they had sex for the first time Zoey realized that she never, ever, wanted to have sex again so she broke up with him.
Relatable to the extreme, Zoey’s emotional connection to Grayson was romantic. She wanted to be with him, loved him, but the sexual attraction wasn’t there so she thought that letting him go would be better because why would someone want to be with her if she didn’t want to have sex?
This thinking is Too Real, what with sex being society’s be all, end all of a relationship. Being taught from an early age that consummation is the main goal means that those who don’t want that are shunned.
The only thing is that Grayson, though heart broken, remains her friend and would do anything for her. The epitome of a Good Guy, Grayson and Zoey’s friendship/relationship is probably my favorite ‘couple’ of the year for me.
In a book full of eerie disappearances and smashing the patriarchy, Claire Legrand makes asexual representation look easy. Writing asexuals like anyone else, with hopes, dreams, and fears is something that I hope spreads far and wide in media sooner rather than later.
Spoiled by the amount of asexual representation in the last month, I’m now on the lookout for more positive LGBTQIA+ in not only YA fantasy, but in all book genres.