Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian #10: Asexual YA Characters with Different Romantic Orientations

Hi Casey!

I was wondering if there are any books out there whose characters have a different sexual orientation to romantic? I’m on the asexual spectrum (I think – I’m so confused right now) and biromantic, but until recently, I had no idea that was even a ‘valid’ thing because I’ve only ever seen how romantic and sexual orientation align. It kinda sucks. I particularly am interested in young adult fiction, but I’m not sure it exists in that genre, I feel like I would know by now! But would you know? Not only in YA, but other literature too.

Thank you for taking time to answer all these questions and find these amazing reads, it’s very much appreciated!


Hi Sophia!

heart of acesI am always happy to help!  First of all, you might want to check out my other post on books that feature asexual characters.  There are quite a few YA titles on that list.  In particular, have a look at The Heart of Aces, edited by Sarah Sinnaeve.  It’s a short story collection, featuring asexual characters in all sorts of romantic relationships, from hetero- to homo-romantic.  All the authors in this anthology are asexual too, which is pretty cool!

Here are some other books I found that I hope you’ll find interesting!  You should also have a look at this list of YA book with asexual characters.  Unfortunately, even with a bunch of research, I couldn’t figure out if some of these asexual characters have different romantic orientations, but you never know!  And some of them look pretty awesome.

daughter-of-smoke-and-boneLaini Taylor’s fantasy series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, comes highly recommended by lots of readers.  There’s magic, demons, angels, monsters, and, specifically, an emotionally closed-off warrior girl named Liraz who is revealed to be asexual in the second book, Days of Blood and Starlight.  However, given that she falls in love with a shape-shifting character called Ziri later in the series, she must be some kind of (hetero?) romantic.  All the reviews I read of this series suggest that it’s impossible to really describe, so you should probably just read it.  Beware of spoilers, but you might want to read this excellent in-depth review of the treatment of Liraz’s asexuality.

boston marriagesBoston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians, edited by Esther D. Rothblum, isn’t YA, but it does sound pretty amazing and affirming.  While the first half is more academic, and contains theoretical articles about asexuality, the second half is full of personal essays by women who are in romantic lesbian relationships that are not sexual.  One goodreads reviewer calls it inspiring, and praises it for being a much needed affirmation for romantic asexuals that they’re not alone.  It seems like this book is a hidden treasure!

Aces by Kathryn Burns might be another underrated find.  It was only published this year, which means it’s up-to-date on such important American milestones like Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out and equal marriage.  Its short description is this: “Love and sex go hand in hand. Until they don’t. This is an asexual love story.”  I can’t find a lot of information on this, so I can’t say if the love story is biromantic, homoromantic, or any other persuasion, but it seems pretty clear there’s asexuality and romance of some kind.  Check out the book’s goodreads page for one reader’s really enthusiastic review.

lunasideLunaside by J.L. Douglas, who is demisexual, features a biromantic asexual teen girl, although unfortunately she’s only a side character.  The rest of this YA book sounds pretty interesting, though: a summer camp lesbian love triangle.  If you’re looking for a light, fun summer read, it looks like Lunaside will deliver.  Not really a spoiler alert: there’s a happy ending.

Scott Westerfield’s protagonist in Afterworlds isn’t exactly asexual, but more demisexual or grey-asexual, as identified in this post from Aro Ace Reads.  She is definitely homoromantic though, and has a girlfriend in this series, which sounds like it has a pretty unique concept:

afterworldsDarcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings… Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled.

wittlinger-hard-loveHard Love by Ellen Wittlinger looks like an amazing, complex book, although the issue of whether the main character John is asexual or not is left open.  Read this great review that I found.  Hard Love is a YA novel about love that is unlike any other, because the kind of love that is uncategorizable.  John falls in love with his best friend Marisol, who is a lesbian, but he’s not really sure if he is sexual at all, as he writes here in one of his zines:

I can’t stand it anymore, the constant talk about girls and sex. I just don’t feel like thinking about that stuff. Maybe it’s weird, but I’m not interested in it. I mean, it worries me a little sometimes, because I guess guys my age are supposed to be like Brian, lusting after pouty lips and big boobs. But to me, the mystery of female body parts is one I’d just as soon not solve. Not that I’m interested in boys either–I’m just not interested in the whole idea of locked lips or proclamations of love.

Anything else to recommend, readers?  I’m certainly no expert on asexuals in literature, but it’s been a fun topic to research a couple times now; I feel like I’ve learned a lot about a community I knew hardly anything about before!

Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian is a Book Advice Column where you can send me your LGBTQ book related questions and recommendation requests. Send me an email: and put “Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian” in the subject.

About CaseytheCanadianLesbrarian

Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian who holds an MA in English literature. She lives and works in the unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation (Nanaimo, BC). Topics and activities dear to her heart include cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer (Canadian) literature, running, and drinking tea. She runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find reviews of LGBTQ2IA+ Canadian books, archives of the book advice column Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, and some other queer, bookish stuff. She also writes for Autostraddle. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian. Some of her old reviews, especially the non-Canadian variety, can be found at the Lesbrary.
This entry was posted in asexual, ask your friendly neighbourhood lesbrarian, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Young Adult and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian #10: Asexual YA Characters with Different Romantic Orientations

  1. Ri says:

    Good answer!

  2. Boston Marriages is definitely an interesting read. The case studies at the end aren’t perfect, though (you get the feeling some of the women aren’t actually as happy about the lack of sex as they say they are) but it definitely explores non-sexual female/female relationships in an interesting and historical light.

  3. Indywind says:

    A bit dated but still good, and YA in flavor though originally marketed as adult, Mercedes Lackey’s Oathbound trilogy(*) is classic sword-and-sorcery fantasy starring a heterosexual sorceress and a celibate/asexual warrior (it’s not clear how much is orientation, how much is choice, how much is reaction to trauma, but by the time we meet the character she’s comfortable and assured in her identity as a person with no interest in sex) who form an intense sisterly-romantic friendship (so, they are both approximately biromantic, one heterosexual, one nonsexual). They have lots of adventures together, giving aid, making friends and allies, fighting monsters and wicked people, and eventually they take vows of kinship to each other and… no spoilers, but it’s a happy ending. (*)A 4th novel, By the Sword, gives the original heroines some page time, but focuses on a different character a generation later.

  4. Abby says:

    I think Clariel in the book by the same name is arguably aro/ace.

  5. Pingback: Link Round Up: August 31 – September 13 | The Lesbrary

  6. Pingback: Using Social Media for LGBTQ+ Reader’s Advisory – social media lesbrarian

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