Alice Oseman writes the type of books I one day hope to write. I can’t even be jealous because her work brings me so much comfort and I am glad to have a new unproblematic set of books to lean on when I need them (SIDE-EYE: SHE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED).
Loveless is Oseman’s fourth novel but she also has a series of graphic novels which make me squeal with happiness. Loveless follows Georgia, a fanfic-obsessed romantic, as she starts university; her plan is to find love but it isn’t as easy as her favourite rom coms make it seem. Asexuality, friendships, new beginnings, and no limit on amazing cultural references—Loveless has it all.
Loveless feels a little bit like a reflection in my soul. I could easily be a side character, in fact, I feel as though I almost am. Georgia’s new roommate Rooney is a bit uptight (in a good way), sexually frivolous (in a sometimes less good way) but all round ultimately great friend who absolutely froths a cup of tea.
"I need to go get some tea or I will actually die."
Barring how much Rooney energy I give off (see below: an actual message my friend sent me as she read Loveless), I love the range of characters Oseman gives us. The reality of life is that we are rarely surrounded by people the exact same as us and it’s nice to have those differences highlighted and celebrated. Oseman creates characters where they could each be the main character of their own novel. Her characters have depth and complexity which creates an added layer of warmth because the reader sees themselves and their friends in the story, making it easier and more comforting to sympathize with these characters that feel like real people.
It is normal to have a gay friend, it is normal to have a friend struggling with their mental health, it is normal to have a slutty friend. It is important for a completely diverse range of people to be represented in normal contemporary fiction because it truthfully reflects the realities of our lives. Diverse people don’t exist as a token difference to make someone feel better about themselves because they have a *insert “diverse” defining feature here* friend. We exist because we are here and the same should be said in fiction.
It is clear to me that Oseman takes great care when it comes to the way she writes her books; YA authors have a responsibility of care when it comes to the content they are putting out into the world, it seems that Oseman carries this responsibility successfully and with great pride. Her characters are self aware, apologetic, and aim to be politically correct. While people may possess the belief that young adults have permission to mess up I don’t think self awareness and the ability to apologize is mutually exclusive to that fact. Oseman explores these boundaries really well. Her characters aren’t perfect but they are perfect at trying their best to respect themselves and others. This standard of self-awareness should be essential in YA books because it is frankly irresponsible to illicit the impression that it is okay to be sassy, rude, and disrespectful to those around you, no matter the circumstances. It is okay to not be okay, but to use your own personal struggle as a crutch to inflict negativity on others is not on in my household.
"I know we were drunk but that’s literally not an excuse for the way I acted… I have so many ideas about how people should feel about romance and sex and all that but it’s all just bullshit and I’m so sorry."
Despite the incredibly cute design of her novels Oseman’s books delve into some hard hitting topics that are familiar to a lot of people. Things are not always doom and gloom with Oseman; her books offer lightness, happiness, and almost a breath of fresh air when it comes to the realities a lot of teens (and adults, hi) face. Loveless deals closely with sexuality, and specifically asexuality. As a teen I only knew what asexuality is because a YouTuber I liked was asexual and really spelt it out in a video. My exposure to asexuality was niche and remained completely limited until now. I cannot even begin to imagine how comforting it is to find a book that almost perfectly, or at least a little bit, explains how I feel on the inside. Personally I felt great comfort reading the journey Rooney goes on (NO SPOILERS I PROMISE) but to read something where the main character and entire plot truly reflects what you are going through would be a weight lifted off someone’s shoulders. Someone who has also read the book and is also going through a similar journey said to me “It was definitely nice reading something from an asexual perspective because it is considered something the internet made up.” While this is not entirely true, for a lot of people the internet is the only place they feel represented. It is truly charming to know that this is changing. When you type asexual into google the first drop down suggestion is books and Loveless (and Radio Silence) are listed amongst the first thing you see.
The importance of friendship in Loveless was really refreshing to see. I don’t enjoy the impression (on young adults in particular) that in order to be happy you must meet a male or female and fall in love. This unrealistic fairytale has been beaten to death and can be destructive because while love is important, true love doesn’t only exist in the romantic sense. My life is completely fulfilled as a result of platonic love and the never ending presence of this has allowed me to love myself as I am. Romantic love, especially when very young, is fleeting and more often than not temporary so the idea that it is essential for happiness is very damaging.
"I had been so desperate for my idea of true love that I couldn’t even see it when it was right in front of my face.”
Loveless has many Scooby Doo references, an honourable Timothee Chalamet mention and a David Attenborough-esque comparison. Loveless warmed my heart, it felt like a warm hug while simultaneously making me feel like I needed a real non-metaphorical hug. I cannot wait to read it over and over again because this book is absolutely anything but love-less.
By Alice Oseman
433 pages. 2020.