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phoenix
24 May 2017 @ 09:57 pm
I'm finally done with law school.

I'm also in the awkward position of having graduated from law school without a job, and since I live in the US, that means being in the lovely (/sarcasm) position of losing health insurance this year, unless I get a job.

I'm trying not to worry about that right now, because my main priority is to get my physical health back on track after law school (since anxiety in law school led to physical health issues).

Other things on my to-do list:

  • Catch up on TV shows (Elementary, The Flash, Lucifer) & my book backlog (right now: A Midsummer Night's Steampunk; Obsidian & Blood; Magnus Chase 2; Supreme Ambitions)

  • Farm Druid Stone Fragments in GW2 (still have 11 stones to go, ughhh)

  • Then start writing my next book as soon as my immediate distractions are gone.

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phoenix
15 May 2017 @ 01:02 pm
Concourse by Santino Hassell - DNF

Recently I've been reading some of Hassell's books (see also the previous entry) since he apparently seems to be a popular MM author, but aside from Hard Wired (which he was one of the co-authors for), I'm having a hard time figuring out why he's so well-regarded, and Concourse is a pretty stark example of that for me.

(Unless his books are popular because they have copious sex scenes...)

So, Concourse. Childhood friends to lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes ever, and yet...this book didn't do it for me at all. In fact, the further I read, the LESS I understood why Val and Ashton were attracted to each other. They're completely different and don't seem to have much common ground or qualities they admire each other for. And I'm 200% NOT a fan of books that rely entirely on UST/characters who angst about not being able to bone each other for convoluted emotional reasons for most of the book. It's boring and annoying to me to read. (Like, at least give me magic or political intrigue or things blowing up to keep me otherwise entertained.)

I'm also not a fan of the way the book handled Val's demisexuality (and apparently I'm in the minority here, but oh well). First, it's kind of the "allo savior trope" (non-asexual person tells asexual person that they're asexual) that some people dislike. I'm more ambivalent about the trope myself, but I thought I'd put a warning just in case.

What bothered me a lot more was how Ashton's queer friends kept calling Val "some kind of straight"/"heteroflexible" once they hear that Val rarely dates and the only guy he's had feelings for is Ashton, even though Val himself doesn't identify as such and he's also only ever had feelings for 1 girl/woman in his life.

Yes, Ashton does tell them not to call him that, but the default assumption that asexual-spectrum identities are "some kind of straight" is extremely harmful. (It would be like calling bisexual people by default "some kind of straight.") For one, not all ace-spectrum people are heteroromantic, and erasing bi/pan-romantic aces is not cool. And assuming aromantic/aro-spec asexuals are straight is violent erasure considering that Actual Straights (heteroromantic+heterosexual people) don't consider aro-aces straight at all. But even for heteroromantic aces, some don't want to be called straight because they don't want to be lumped in with Actually Straight people when Actually Straight people are often very acephobic, including toward hetero aces.

And seriously, enough with singling out ace-spectrum identities as "some kind of straight" as opposed to every other letter under the LGBTQ+ as "queer enough." I'm really, really tired of that.
 
 
phoenix
Hard Wired by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

So...this book. I wanted to like it, because it was all about internet/fan culture, which is 100% my jam, and it was well-written, but there were some things about it that just bothered the heck out of me.

First: This is a minor thing, but it bugged me a lot. Jesse makes a throwaway comment near the beginning about how he thought he was straight, but always had problems in his relationships with girls, so then he thought he was ace or demisexual, but then realized he was gay. Other aces might disagree with me, but I really don't like it when asexuality is brought up this way in a book. Is it realistic? Sure. Are there people who think they're ace before realizing they're not? Yes. However, (1) asexuality is not well-known, and it's also still pretty stigmatized, so the chances of someone thinking they're ace before realizing they're actually gay are usually pretty low; (2) there is a lot of virulent acephobia right now within certain circles of the LGBT community premised upon the false idea that asexuals "coerce" vulnerable gay teens into identifying as ace, and books like Hard Wired are not helping that at all.

Perhaps most importantly, (3) To me, bringing up asexuality that way feels like dangling the possibility of asexual representation in my face and then quickly snatching it away. I know that's probably not what the authors intended, that they probably had a benevolent desire to normalize asexuality by bringing it up as a possibility. But given how little asexual representation there currently is, that's what it feels like to me. And I don't appreciate it.

Second: It's not clear to me what Ian's situation is, regarding neurodivergence/mental illness. My best guess is that he might be mentally ill with anxiety and/or PTSD; however, we never see his symptoms on-page (except for some vaguely PTSD-like avoidance), we only hear about him mentioning breakdowns off-page, and he never seeks treatment of any kind, with no explanation for that, even though Jesse gets concerned enough to think at one point that Ian should get therapy, before that idea is never brought up again. I wouldn't be as bothered about that if not for the fact that Ian claims to be neurodivergent, at which point it bothered me: you can't claim a character is neurodivergent for *diversity points* but both never show him as being clearly neurodivergent and also never showing him getting treatment. In fact, the whole argument over the Ian/Cerise/Cherry thing seemed to imply in the book that Ian was perfectly capable of dealing with his trauma on his own—which is, generally, not a good thing to imply, even if that may be the case for some people, because seeking help for mental illnesses is already so stigmatized in our society, and there are plenty of people who think they can "deal with" their problems on their own only to have major breakdowns.

Third: It felt to me that one of the themes in the book was about adding diversity using fandom/online spaces. Which is great! I am 100% for that! ...However, it's a little awkward for that to be the message in a book about two cis white gay guys. If we're talking about underrepresentation, cis white gay guys are the most represented/well-represented. There are also plenty of issues in fandom/online spaces with racism and misogyny, as well as issues with race in LGBTQ+ communities. For example, if Ian had made that speech as a queer disabled man of color, it would've felt much more meaningful and resonant. As it was, the effectiveness and sincerity of the message was a bit undercut.

Lastly, this is a personal gripe, but I sort of felt like Ian and Jesse sometimes used sex as a way to avoid addressing their relationship problems, and it drove me up the wall.


In the Company of Shadows by Santino Hassell & Ais

(This book is available for free on the internet, by the way. Link to come when I stop being lazy.)

I'll admit that I read about halfway through part 1 of book 1, because the books are hideously long, but I Have Thoughts, so.

First off, I was intrigued by the high ratings on Goodreads, but I actually found the writing to be pretty mediocre. Boyd's dialogue felt overly formal, and there were no narrative/contextual cues as for why he spoke that way. The action scenes were overly-descriptive and lacked urgency. In general, there were often a lot of long paragraphs without much variation, which sometimes made reading feel monotonous.

There's also Hsin Liu Vega, a.k.a. the Chinese guy with green eyes who somehow does not look Chinese at all, despite the fact that apparently his mother was 100% Han Chinese. I mean, yeah, it happens in real life, but Asian representation is so slim in fiction that a multiracial Asian guy who doesn't look Asian at all irritates me. Also, ICoS is set in the future, and Sin says his mom is from mainland China, so if she named him, his name should be Xin Liu ("Hsin" is from the Wade-Giles romanization system, which even today has been largely phased out except sometimes in Taiwan). Not to mention, is "Hsin Liu" his full first name? Or is "Liu" supposed to be his last name? Is his last name "Vega" or "Liu Vega"? Details, people. Screwing up basic details is a surefire way to keep Chinese American readers (like me) distracted during your story.

The part that bugged me most was how inconsistently Boyd's depression was treated. At first, he was introduced as suicidally depressed...yet although Boyd experienced suicidal ideation, he never seemed to have made an attempt, and I wanted an explanation as to why. Also, Boyd refers to himself as having no emotion, except early on he gets angry when some other recruits/agents/whatever don't treat him well, so...?? (I'm not saying he shouldn't have reacted in that situation, but to me, it would've felt more realistic for him to react with even more depressed/critical thoughts about himself, not with anger.) He also gets annoyed and angry at Sin plenty of times. Also, for a "suicidally depressed to the point of not having emotions anymore" person, he sure seems motivated to excel at his grueling physical training at the Agency. Spoiler alert: That's not how lacking in emotions works.

Basically, he barely reads as "depressed" or "depressed to the point of lacking emotion." Instead, he reads more as just "reserved" or "stoic." And that is 100% NOT depression. Which is a HUGE problem when supposedly the entire point of why his partnership with Sin works is that he "lacks emotions" so Sin can't rile him up properly. (Well, one of the points. My impression was that that was supposed to be the premise of the book, except it reads a lot more like "the partnership works because Boyd treats Sin with human decency.")

I thought the premise of the book was going to be about exploring "humanity" with the character of Sin, who is painted as a psychopathic monster, except...that premise fell pretty flat. Boyd wonders to himself at some point why the Agency perpetuates that image when Sin is really just an unstable guy with a history of abuse who, due to his lethal training, tends to have violent psychotic breaks when triggered, and I wonder that too. Like, it's a pretty huge leap considering that Sin more or less looks and talks like a neurotypical human being (he says he has "no social skills" due to his weird/isolated upbringing, but he didn't read that way at all to this autistic reader). Even with the stigma against mental illness/association with certain mental illnesses and violence in our current society, people still generally don't consider schizophrenic/bipolar people as...monsters? The word "monster" is a loaded term with particular connotations (I can't believe I have to say that out loud) and it just...didn't seem to work to describe Sin in this situation. It would've been more believable to me if people just thought he was "crazy"/volatile/unpredictable, not a "monster." (It sort of reminds me of Shuos Jedao in Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, who kind of had a similar-ish backstory to Sin, except Jedao was only considered "insane," not a "monster.")

I'm really not sure why this online book series is rated as highly as it is on Goodreads when the representation of depression was so inaccurate and almost romanticized (given that Boyd's depression was supposed to be the "reason" he can work with Sin).
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phoenix
A very brief post inspired by some of my recent annoyances.

1. If your story is set in an era/location where mental health professionals exist, and your character has a mental illness, don't avoid writing your character getting professional help with their mental illness.

There is one exception to this, which is if you provide a clear reason why your character can't get professional help. For example, they can't afford a therapist (perfectly legit for stories set in contemporary US, unfortunately), or they're afraid of leaving their house/talking to strangers in order to get help.

Otherwise, I'm pretty tired of seeing characters written as mentally ill, especially in contemporary fiction, and the author provides no reason for why the character hasn't at least thought about getting professional help, or in some cases, the author even presents the character as able to cope just fine without professional help.

I'm not saying that therapists are a magical talisman, but for someone who is genuinely mentally ill, they are unlikely to get significantly better without professional help. Even if they do, in most cases there will still be underlying issues that can resurface to cause problems later.

More importantly, however, are the real-world consequences. It's already heavily stigmatized to seek help for mental health issues, so we don't need books perpetuating that mindset. Okay? Okay.

2. Depression is not a freaking superpower. Depression does not give you advantages. Depression is not going to motivate you to perform well.

I can't believe I have to say this, but apparently I do.

The hallmarks of depression are constant exhaustion, emotional pain or total apathy, and lack of motivation as a result. Someone who is depressed to the point of suicidal ideation is not going to suddenly become great at a new job they're given, regardless of what the job is, because when you're that depressed, giving a f**k about anything other than the pain of your existence feels like too much effort.

This is why I get annoyed at stories that present lack of emotions as a good thing, because I feel like authors haven't thought it through carefully enough. When you lose emotions—particularly as a result of depression—you also lose motivation. Why? Because you're unable to get pleasure from doing anything anymore, so there is no positive feedback to stimulate you to do things. Which means...you basically aren't going to do a lot of things without a colossal amount of effort to dredge up the motivation to do them.

In my experience, negative emotions linger longer than positive emotions for a depressed person, but if someone's depressed to the point of losing all their negative emotions as well...they're not going to be some scary Terminator who feels no fear, they're going to be an even less motivated blob. Why? Because if you don't feel fear, you're also not going to fear any consequences for not doing things you're supposed to do.

And now, let's talk about "high functioning" depressed people. I get nervous when people seem to misunderstand what "high functioning" depression is and use that as proof that depressed people can still accomplish a lot. This can feed pretty easily into the "romanticizing mental illness" narrative.

A "high functioning" depressed person is still a 100% suboptimal person. To a "high functioning" depressed person, they can tell that their own brains aren't functioning properly. The appearance of being "high functioning" simply means the person is depressed, but still capable of running on autopilot, and/or following simple routines or doing the same things they've done before, and/or their negative emotions can motivate them enough to do the things they have to. It doesn't mean they are actually effective at what they're doing (they're probably not), and—here's the important thing—being in a state of "high functioning" depression is usually unsustainable. Unless the "high functioning" depressed person is only experiencing mild depression (though that's not what I think people usually mean when they use that term), if something doesn't improve, the "high functioning" depressed person is just as likely as a non-"high functioning" depressed person to have a breakdown or attempt suicide. Perhaps even more so, because they probably feel immense pressure to keep up the façade that nothing's wrong when they're completely broken-down on the inside.

This is not to say that depressed people can't be the heroes of certain stories, but such stories have to grapple with how such a character copes with depression in order to accomplish something, not that they accomplished something because of their depression.

Ugh...I'm sort of vaguely referencing a book I read recently, but now I'm in the mood to write a more specific post since it's annoying me more and more. Sigh.
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phoenix
03 May 2017 @ 07:31 pm
Counterbalance by Aidan Wayne

It's extremely rare that I get to see Asian, especially Chinese, characters in contemporary fiction and genre romance, so of course I couldn't help jumping at the chance to read one such book, out of curiosity.

The book, overall, was an okay read for me. The ending was a bit abrupt, and slice-of-life isn't exactly my favorite genre. It wasn't a terrible/offensive depiction of the Chinese character (Bao), but it also wasn't the best, either.

Disclaimer before I go further: I'm a second-generation Chinese American, not someone who grew up in mainland China, so I'm not an expert on Chinese culture. When I say the book's depiction of Bao wasn't the best, I mean that certain things in its portrayal of Chinese characters/culture struck me as intuitively odd (and I later confirmed most of my feelings with my dad). (But, of course, if any other Chinese person wants to chime in with different opinions, feel free.)

As a side note, this is why sensitivity readers are necessary—even if you didn't write something horribly offensive, sensitivity readers can still add authenticity to your book. I would personally prefer an author more or less ignore a character's cultural background rather than portray it inaccurately, because the latter case is extremely distracting to read about.

So, first, I didn't like the way Bao's character was written, just because he felt like a Manic Pixie Dream Guy who existed to prop up John. Maybe that's a harsh way of putting it, but I never got the sense of Bao's character beyond his peppy, friendly, energetic personality.

(Incidentally, while I am by no means an expert on Chinese names, "Bao" felt like an odd name for a Chinese guy to me? Maybe it's just that it doesn't sound right in English compared to Mandarin.)

I also disliked how Bao's dialogue was written to try to convey his accent/imperfect grammar/excessive formality that indicated English was not his first language. Honestly, I just don't want authors to try to write a "Chinese accent" at all. It's awkward as hell and distracting.

Here are the things that bothered me in the book's portrayal of Chinese culture (with, of course, the caveat that these are broad generalizations and doesn't mean no Chinese person acts this way ever):

  • John attributing Bao's touchy-feeliness to Chinese culture: I wouldn't say Chinese people are touchy-feely. Maybe towards relatives, but not towards people in general. Rather, it's more like Chinese people don't have the same concept of personal space that people from Western cultures do; however, there's a difference between "invading someone's personal space" vs. "frequently touching/hugging people." The former is true of Chinese culture, but not the latter.

  • Bao's respect for John's privacy in not asking about his facial scar: To be fair, Bao could just be a very considerate guy as opposed to it being a cultural thing, but generally, Chinese culture doesn't have the same notions of privacy as Western cultures. Like, in China, it's considered not really personal to ask someone you've just met how much money they make at their job. Given that, I thought it might've been a stretch for Bao to know that asking about John's scar was clearly a private question.

  • Bao's & his fellow Chinese acrobats' attitudes towards him being gay and having feelings for John: So my knowledge is limited here by the fact that attitudes might be changing among young (?) Chinese people in recent years (my dad's no help here since he grew up during a conservative time period), but I have a hard time believing that a gay Chinese man who grew up in mainland China would be so open about kissing John, or talking about having sex with John, and that his fellow acrobats would egg him on/tease him about it. Maybe the book just didn't want to go into homophobia (though it didn't exactly shy away from writing about John being disfigured by a homophobic hate crime). I'm not sure.

So yeah. Not a horrible book by any means, but its portrayal of Chinese culture/characters felt a little off and kept distracting me as I read it.
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phoenix
[Spoiler (click to open)]I was pretty meh about Heart of Thorns—I think it was the fact that I didn't like that GW2 was moving to an expansion model, and also jungles aren't my favorite biome.

But FREAKING CRYSTAL DESERT. (I really like the idea of desert biomes, even though...I didn't really like the aesthetic of Silverwastes and Dry Top. *shrug* Maybe it's because I'm on the Crystal Desert server, haha.)

MOUNTS.

And SWEET NEW ELITE SPECS!!!

(Elite specs were always my favorite part of HoT, anyway.)

I mean, it's hard to evaluate the elite specs just from names/weapons, because we still don't know exactly how they'll work. But I think Mirage, Scourge, and Soulbeast all look really intriguing. And Kalla Scorchrazor as a Revenant legend, awesome!

And Firebrand = Tome Guardian??? OHMYGOD GIMME.

And oh my god HOLOSMITH. I hope it's cool!! If so, I might actually roll an Engineer! (I have every class except Warrior, Thief, and Engineer right now.)

Ugh, I'm actually tempted to preorder the expac now, and I've never done that with GW2 so far. Also, I learned from HoT that it's better not to get the expac right away so they have time to fix things (like *coughcough* that initial elite spec grind, seriously *cough*). But...this looks so cool.


EDIT: And now, after seeing some discussion on the leaks, I guess I'll just add my thoughts:

I'll admit, I don't really understand the point of view that "oh the expac has been ruined now." I was 0% interested in the next expansion until I saw the leaks, which have now made me seriously consider preordering the expansion (which, again, I've never done when it came to GW2 before). When it came to Heart of Thorns, my own hype levels actually decreased as time went on—some of the elite specs weren't worth the hype to me, and after they were revealed, I had nothing left to interest me about the expac.

I respect that ArenaNet's marketing might be totally thrown off. However, I don't understand the mentality that "oh, everything's revealed now and that hurts sales." Um, really? I don't get it. Is it the fear that too much lag time between announcement/marketing/release makes people forget about the expac and go buy something else? Because I don't really get it, but then again, I'm not a marketing/advertising expert.

There's still plenty to reveal when it comes to the elite specs—like, even though we have names/weapons, we largely don't know the class mechanics, skills, and traits. I'm also super interested in seeing the elite spec-specific weapons and armor. And seriously, seeing actual pictures/mastery traits for the [spoilers redacted] has made me so excited to see the new masteries in action.

But that's me. I guess it's not everybody.
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phoenix
Brought to you by Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan, a book that clearly tries hard to present a positive portrayal of autism but still gets it wrong in so many ways, I had to stop reading every other chapter.

1. Don't "other," or worse, infantilize the autistic teen/adult's dialogue/internal narration.

A verbal autistic teen/adult who doesn't have an intellectual disability is not going to speak entirely in short sentences and simple words like a child. Like, please, I beg of you, go read autistic adults' blog posts and forum posts. We talk like any other person would.

The things that make verbal autistics' speech strange are not grammar oddities, they're more along the lines of:

- Infodumping/oversharing about a special interest—however, this doesn't happen all the time. Think more like short, intense bursts if a special interest comes up (or if an autistic is dying to share).

- Difficulty maintaing a conversation: awkward pauses/lulls and not knowing how to respond to certain things.

- Not understanding certain jokes and/or difficulty with sarcasm.

- Scripted responses in regard to specific social situations.

Please, please, if an autistic teen/adult is verbal and doesn't have an intellectual disability, don't write them as talking like a 5-year-old. It's infantilizing and upsetting. (Even a nonverbal teen/adult isn't going to think like a 5-year-old.)

Another thing: We don't talk like robots. We use slang/colloqualisms. Really. Please stop writing our dialogue as sounding like we're aliens learning a human language for the first time.

2. Autism =/= bad manners.

Yes, autistic people can come off as rude, but it's often an unintentional thing due to either (1) being honest to the point of bluntness and not understanding that that's not considered polite for the situation, and/or (2) miscalculating whether something may come off as rude or not.

For obvious things, such as non-jokingly telling friends/family members to "go away," that's just a result of bad manners, not autism. For the love of God, autistic people can learn basic manners if they're taught (or even if they observe enough real/fictional people).

3. If the autistic character is having miscommunication problems with another character, particularly a love interest, don't make the solution be for another character to instruct the autistic character to pay more attention to body language/emotional cues.

In real life, an autistic person in that situation would probably already be doing their best, but no matter how good an autistic person is, it's never going to be easy or intuitive, and simply asking the allistic partner to just speak their opinion out loud is so much easier and more efficient.

4. Don't write about how your autistic character *categorically* *can't* do X thing, but the difficulty disappears when it's inconvenient for the story (i.e. when the autistic character is around their love interest).

One of my biggest pet peeves with fictional depictions of autism is that allistic people have a stereotype of autistic traits as All Or Nothing. Either you have normal neurotypical skills reading facial expressions or you can't do it at all, etc.

But then, of course, the author is quick to drop that like a hot potato if it would actually cause major problems in the story.

That's not how disability works, though, and besides, there are many autistics whose social difficulties are more of a continuum. And that's really easy to explain, too. "I have a hard time reading faces unless I know the person well" or "I can read the obvious expressions but not subtle/faked ones," for example.

5. If the autistic character does not have an intellectual disability, and other characters know they don't have an intellectual disability, don't...write other characters treating them as though they have an intellectual disability?

I'm not even sure why I have to say this one, but apparently I do.

6. "Social difficulties" does not translate into "lacking mental competence" by any stretch of imagination.

Really, the more I think about it, the more I feel like most of my annoyance at Carry the Ocean has to do with the author writing Emmet (the autistic character) as clearly not being intellectually disabled, but then at the same time writing his thoughts/dialogue so that he sounds like he has an intellectual disability, and it's weird and very uncomfortable.

"Social difficulties" does not mean an autistic character can't understand romantic relationships, or sexual consent. "Social difficulties" doesn't mean autistic people don't understand that humans are complicated beings and relationships can get weird—even saying this out loud sounds so condescending, and I hate that I have to write this because of the book.
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phoenix
28 April 2017 @ 02:34 pm
Thaw by Elyse Springer

It's kind of impossible to talk about my feelings about this book without going into spoilers. Basically: this was a cute, sweet F/F romance...and so close to, but ultimately not, what I was looking for from an asexual romance.

[Spoiler (click to open)]
The author said she wanted to write a relationship between an asexual and allosexual where sex wasn't required. I don't like to say an author is lying about their own book, but...that's not the case in Thaw. The ending of Thaw emphasizes "compromises" and "meeting halfway" and Abby, the asexual, going from "I don't want to have sex at all and it's ruined all my previous relationships" to "okay, Gabrielle, I'll have sex with you to make you happy."

I'm starting to get frustrated with authors who write clearly sex-repulsed or sex-negative asexual characters (sex-negative in the sense of "I absolutely do not want sex"), but those characters still end up having sex with their allosexual partner at the end. I don't know why. If that's the route you want to take, why make a big emphasis on how much the character does not want to have sex...until they meet their true love and then some forms of sex are okay? That's not how sex repulsion/aversion works. Just make the character sex-indifferent if you have to. But don't dangle the potential of a relationship that doesn't rest on sex in front of me, only to take it away at the very end.



Olive Juice by T.J. Klune

Whoo boy, where to start with this one.

What got me interested in this book was all the Goodreads reviews raving about it and claiming "You can't go in with any spoilers or else it'll be ruined." I scoffed, skeptical of that. Really? Was the big reveal that much of a big deal?

The short answer: Yeah.

It's not because of the reveal itself, but rather the way the book is written, giving you very little information, leaving you to draw your own conclusions...until you realize you're wrong. And that was pretty darn cool.

It was a sad book, and emotional, and yes, it did make me cry, which is pretty rare. But it also left me conflicted in terms of racial issues, which is the only reason I can't wholeheartedly recommend the book.

[Spoiler (click to open)]
Basically, I'm really iffy about the idea of using a tragedy that happens to a black woman to frame the pain of two white men (regardless of the familial relationship). I'm not black, so I don't say this with complete confidence, but it did make me uncomfortable, and I wish David/Philip were men of color instead to make it less iffy.
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phoenix
26 April 2017 @ 10:20 pm
1 paper done. 4 exams to go. *cries*

I already want to curl up and just write my book/read books/play video games instead. My brain is too dead for this at this point. :(

(Also, really looking forward to ArenaNet announcing the next GW2 expansion will take us to Crystal Desert...)
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phoenix
*sigh*

I'm not usually in this position, but I feel semi-obligated to read romance books with asexual leads on the off-chance that I'll find the kind of representation I want.

The thing is, if I'm reading an asexual romance, I want to see romantic relationships where sex is not only not important, but it's not even considered normative. To date, I've only read one book that does this (All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher)—even most books that try to show an asexual character can have a relationship with a non-asexual character without sex somehow still center the importance of sex in the narrative. I have complicated feelings about books where the asexual character is happy and willing to have sex—like, yeah, obviously those people exist in real life, yet if a book conveys a message that "most" asexual people are like this, or "if you're asexual and really love your partner, you'll be willing to have sex with them," I get hurt.

Sometimes quite badly.

So for the book I'm thinking about reading (not naming it now...if I want to write a review after I finish it, I'll name it then), I already know from Goodreads reviews that the asexual character has sex with her partner, so I'm reeeeeally iffy as to whether I'll enjoy it or not.

And yet the author has said she wrote this book to show asexual people can be in relationships with non-asexual people and sex doesn't have to be necessary, so...argh. I feel like I have to at least try it out.

(I've also heard some GR reviews complain that the two leads have little chemistry, and though obviously chemistry can be subjective...there's nothing as torturous to me as much as reading a romance where I feel like the romantic leads have no chemistry.)
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