HAPPY ACE AWARENESS WEEK!
My eternal thanks to you, my reader for tuning in this week. My own awareness of being on the ace-spectrum came late in life when I finally discovered the language to describe my approach to romance and intimacy. (Feel free to read about my (Not-So) Great Sexpectations here) Discovering that language was a game changer for me and I finally felt seen and understood. Being able to say "I'm demi-sexual" was like coming home. Since then, I've been on the lookout for books with main characters who identify on the ace spectrum. I want to read all the different versions of ace-ness, not just my own experience. And each one I find means there's future shelf space for another book (and hopefully mine will be there too one day!)
Here's my list of books I've read that feature Ace POV characters! Some of these are explicit on the page, while others are my interpretation of them--there are so many different ways to read these characters and each reader brings their own experience to the mix. Also, please take the time to read CW for any of these books--while they offer lovely outlooks on asexuality, there may be other aspects that might not jive with your reading expectations.
Also, some of these have mild *character* spoilers. So if you don't mind being mildly spoiled, proceed, otherwise, TURN BACK NOW.
Tarnished are the Stars & Fire Becomes Her
Both of these delightful books by Rosiee Thor put ace characters front and center. In Tarnished are the Stars, Nathaniel is just figuring himself out. In Fire Becomes Her, Ingrid is also figuring herself out and I read her as being on the demi aspect of the spectrum. In Fire Becomes her, you have two other ace side characters--Alex and Charlotte. The term asexual isn't used in either of these books, but the characters do have clear and lovely conversations about their feelings and their relationship expectations and needs. The characters are validated and end up in loving and safe places.
Rise to the Sun
OMG, this book!!! Leah Johnson writes fantastic sapphic romances! This is a book where I read one of the POVs, Olivia as demi. In the book, despite her reputation with her fellow students, Olivia prefers to take things slow in a relationship. She enjoys the cuddling, the kissing, and holding hands, but going further is something she doesn't want until she feels more at home with her partner. Some readers might read her as ace and others might read her as neither--but for me, the way she described her approach to romance resonated with me. What I really loved about reading her as demi was that she enjoyed the physicality of her relationships and broke past the stereotype that all people on the ace spectrum dislike any physical aspects of intimacy. There is a whole range of asexual experiences and I love that this one pushes against the often narrow view of asexuality.
The Reckless Kind
This is another book that pushes back against stereotypes and stigmas! Asta has no interest in being a wife and as she explores what she does want, she realizes that physical intimacy isn't part of her checklist. I liked the intimate scene in this book because Asta enjoys it, but also decides it isn't worth all the hype and if it never happens again, she's cool with that. I loved that she had a positive experience and enjoyed herself, but was also like, NOPE.
Beyond the Black Door
Kamai is one of my favorite ace protagonists and this book is one of my favorite discussions of asexuality. Kamai's exploration and thought process around asexuality really resonated with me. There is a fantastic section where the characters talk about sexuality and queerness and there's a drawing that I desperately want as a tattoo. I also love the way Kamai's end of book relationship unfolds. No spoils, but it was so incredibly satisfying to me.
This delightful retelling of the goose girl features two demi POVs. Both Vanja and Emeric fall into the demi area of the asexual spectrum and not only does Vanja have some fantastic internalization about it, but she and Emeric DISCUSS IT and it's so well done. I love how much they communicate about their romantic and friendship needs and how love grows from that. As a demi, I am always on the lookout for fantastic demi rep and this book totally fits the bill. (Also, Owen's writing is delightful)
This contemporary YA has received mixed reviews for its ace rep, but for me, it worked. I appreciated the main character's struggle with understanding their own sexuality and relationship with physical intimacy. There were times when it was a bit heavy handed and I didn't always understand why Georgia didn't just google more or take a more proactive approach once she got wind of the concept of asexuality. But I appreciate that was how her character dealt with it. (I GOOGLE EVERYTHING!!) I especially liked her attempts at relationships and how she worked through them. It was painful and awkward and that, for me, made it so authentic and was what really drew me in.
The Kindred & The Sound of Stars
Alechia Dow writes FANTASTIC demis. Both of these books have demi POVs that appreciate and seek depth to their relationships before becoming physically intimate. I loved both Joy & Felix's thoughts on how they related to each other--especially Joy's. I love getting to see a character's internalizations about where they fall on the asexual spectrum because it helps me to sort through my own understanding of where I fit in. In The Sound of Stars, Ellie discusses her demisexuality (I may be misremembering, but I feel like she was self aware and then she's able to explain it to M0Rr1S as their relationship grows). This was one of the first books I read where demisexuality was put front and center.
Technically You Started It
This is such a fun book! It's told ENTIRELY in text messages, which is also fun. Haley and Martin have candid conversations about life, love, and queerness through the safety of text messages. (They do meet in real life, but they don't realize it. Or at least Haley doesn't...there's some GREAT mistaken identity in there) and Haley eventually comes to the concept of demisexuality. Very heartwarming and I just really loved the way the story unfolded.
This Golden Flame
Karis struggles with finding her place at the Scriptorium and desperately wants to find her brother. She's a fantastic Ace protagonist who believed in herself and wasn't afraid to stand up and live the life she wanted to. Karis doesn't want to build intimate romantic relationships, but she does cultivate strong, meaningful friendships that hold just as much value and importance as our culture tend to put on romantic relationships. I loved this aspect of the novel. Give me all the Queer Platonic Soulmates.
A Snake Falls to Earth & Elatsoe
Both of these books feature ace main characters and POVs and both have straightforward discussions and thought processes about their aceness. These are great books because not only are the characters aware they are ace, but they continue to lead happy and fulfilled lives, busting the stereotype that asexual people are lonely or sad. You're definitely going to want to check out both of them!
The Good Luck Girls
I LOVE THIS BOOK! I've got a soft spot for westerns and this book is just *chef's kiss* perfection. This is another book where I read the main POV character, Aster, as asexual. In the book, she's one of the Good Luck Girls--girls kept in brothels. When her sister accidently kills a man, they have to flee or face the consequences. Aster has a lot to unpack based on her trauma (I don't remember there being much on page--it was more just referenced to and you know what they're talking/thinking about) but she comes to understand herself and that she enjoys companionship, but not the physical intimacy. I loved the scene where it all comes together for her. I think I cried.
There are also plenty of books with ace side characters and here are four where they really stood out to me: When We Were Them, Daughter of Smoke & Bone Trilogy,
Blood Like Water, and In the Ravenous Dark. On a personal note, in DoS&B, I immediately fell in love with Liraz's character. She was everything I wanted in a character and if Laini Taylor ever wrote a series just about Liraz, I'd be all over it. Anywho, LIraz's character develops over the three books and we eventually get AMAZING POV chapters from her. Liraz is on the page asexual although I definitely read her as more demi (which totally falls under the asexual umbrella!) But she uses this word to describe herself, which in a MAJOR book series like this is pretty awesome. DoS&B was originally published in 2011 and I didn't catch the asexual bit on my first read through. Liraz's character resonated with me, but it was during my reread that I saw that and was like OMG!! (and this is an example of how that word had no meaning to me back when I first read the book and now I know and when I see it, I am so very very happy)
There are SO MANY other books with ace main characters and ace side characters, these are just the ones I've read. I'm always on the lookout for more, so please drop your recommendations below! I'd also like to point out this amazing thread compiled by Natalia Martinez (@NataliaDeJesusM ) of 2023 releases that will have asexual main characters:
In short, every book that has ever been written that either directly or indirectly features a main character with an iteration of asexuality makes room on the shelf for more stories with asexual characters. I know I'm not the only one CRAVING these stories. I want them in adult fantasy books too, not just YA. I know they're there, I just haven't discovered them yet, so you know, DROP YOUR RECS BELOW FOLX! It's up to us to keep talking about these books and to support authors so they can keep telling their stories. I hope this list helps you to find your next ace-mazing read!