What’s up, GGA? Welcome to another edition of Queer Tested, Teacher Approved, and this time, we’re highlighting awesome asexual characters in young adult and middle grade! Asexuality and/or aromantic representation is nowhere near where it needs to be, but it seems to be getting better.
It’s certainly better than in my sophomore year of college. That year, I tried to write a script about an ace guy and his girlfriend, and my prof and classmates told me that it was boring because he never “got over his asexuality.” I couldn’t get them to understand how messed up that was …
Before we go any further, let’s talk about what asexuality is:
[Asexuality is] defined by a lack of sexual attraction. Asexual experiences may also include: not wanting to have sex, not being interested in sex, not experiencing a sex drive/libido, or being repulsed by sex … Some asexuals do not have sex, [but] there are also many asexuals who do … The term “asexual” may also be used as an umbrella term, referring to anyone on the asexual spectrum. (LGBTA Wikia)
Queer Tested Criteria
I’ve mined this content specifically from ace subreddits and online databases. Clearly, not every asexual character can please everyone — a work that makes one person feel seen can make another feel othered. So, I selected works that, in general, ace commenters reviewed positively. Additionally, I try to point out when a character is aromantic.
As always, I’m not concerned with the idea of “clean” books because honestly what does that even mean? That being said, YA and MG content especially ought to contextualize tough stuff and discuss it in an age appropriate manner. Beyond that, I know there’s some research that states content warnings might “not work.” However, I firmly believe they give readers the agency to decide whether they’re up to interacting with content.
To that point — that’s why I often mention when something has sexual content. Some humans don’t want to read about sex, plain and simple. And, while there’s a lot of ridiculous stigma attached to sexuality — particularly queer sexuality — I want to be respectful of people who are sex-repulsed or simply uninterested in reading about sex.
Our first awesome asexual is Elatsoe! Little Badger’s Elatsoe is a murder mystery about a Lipan Apache girl named Elatsoe (“Ellie”), who lives in an America made up of the very true legends of her people. She has a special connection to the dead (including a ghost dog!), and when her cousin visits her in a dream as he passes between our world and the next, he beseeches her to protect their family from his murderer. CW
Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee
Not Your Backup is the third book in Lee’s Sidekick Squad series, so you probably wanna read the first two before you dive into this one (I promise you, it’s worth it). Emma Robledo is an anxious perfectionist, a powerless teen among superheroes — and an aroace with a lot of internalized shame about it. It’s difficult to navigate relationships, sexuality and racial identity in any situation, but when you throw in dealing with fighting super villains? Well, Emma’s got a lot on her plate. CW
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Our next asexual character on the list is Felicity Montague! Her story is actually the middle book of Lee’s Montague Siblings Trilogy, but it doesn’t suffer from second-child syndrome. This is its own, independent story about three kick-butt women who are just trying to survive the 18th century. It’s worth noting that true to her demographic, Felicity, our aroace in question, definitely has a mild case of white feminism and homophobia at the offset, but she learns. CW
Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow
Hazel’s Theory of Evolution is a great example of a book that deals with difficult material in a way that’s accessible for younger readers. One of Hazel’s moms is pregnant, and though Hazel is super excited to be a big sister, she’s really nervous because her mom has had two prior miscarriages. On top of that, Hazel struggles to fit in at school because she cares more about earthworms and goats than crushes. CW
A-Okay by Jarad Greene
This is a semi-autobiographical middle grade graphic novel (say that five times fast). It tells the story of Jay, who like many-a-preteen (and teen … and adult) is dealing with very bad acne. He’s put on Accutane, which is a very serious drug that comes with a host of side effects. While all that’s going on, Jay’s also starting to realize he’s ace. CW: mental health issues.
Kai by Rani/Queenue
Our next character on the asexual spectrum is Kai, who is part of an eponymous ongoing webtoon. Kai’s just had to move in with their aunt after their parents die. It’s a slow-burn slice of life romance between Kai and their next-door neighbor, Alex (Kai is demi). I really love Rani/Queenue’s animation style and the choice to set this in the 1980s. This webtoon is in its infancy, so we’ll just have to “toon” in to see where it goes. CW: parental death, bullying, queerphobia, romance.
Rick by Alex Gino
Our last awesome asexual character is Rick of Rick, the follow up to Gino’s award-winning book, Melissa. Rick starts middle school and joins his school’s Spectrum club. There, he slowly starts to realize he’s ace. I was a little hesitant to add Rick to this list as it was the most iffily reviewed of the seven on this list. There’s a lot of queer representation in this book, but some is better than others. Gino offers a very narrow view of asexuality, which isn’t great — as mentioned above, there are aces who have sex and enjoy it. Also, Rick misgenders his friend even after she tells him her pronouns, so … CW
There you have it, folx. That’s all they wrote! There are, of course, more asexual characters out there in the fiction multiverse, but they’re so often aliens or evil, or just older than high-school aged. So, even though this list is relatively short at seven characters, I do hope you found someone who resonates with you. Much love. Until next time.
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