Review: Novelist Alice Oseman examines the spectrum of sexuality in her novel “Loveless”

“Loveless” by Alice Oseman, published in 2020, is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of 18-year-old Georgia Warr’s journey of self-discovery. 

Georgia has always been obsessed with the idea of love, but has never felt any romantic or sexual feelings for anyone. Only when Georgia goes to university does she discover the terms “aromantic” and “asexual.” After some time to self-reflect, Georgia realizes she identifies as both aromantic and asexual, or “aroace” for short. 

Though the title suggests otherwise, “Loveless” is brimming with love, just not the kind the media typically expects from teenagers and young adults. 

[Photo of “Loveless” by Alice Oseman]
Photo by McKenzie Heileman | The Arbiter

A New York Times article by Kim Kaletsky published in 2015 summarizes the author’s experience of being aromantic and asexual. 

“Movies, books and television shows routinely glorify sex as some be-all-end-all, the main indicator that a romantic relationship is serious and that love is present. Even language itself holds sex in high esteem: The phrase ‘make love’ stands in for ‘have sex,’ as if it’s the only true way to express love,” Kaletsky wrote.

But in Oseman’s novel, through Georgia’s story, readers discover that there are so many ways to experience love that has nothing to do with romantic relationships or sex.  

“I’ve learnt some things. Like the way friendship can be just as intense, beautiful and endless as romance. Like the way there’s love everywhere around me—there’s love for my friends, there’s love for my paintings, there’s love for myself,” Oseman wrote. 

Georgia’s self-discovery is pivotal. It shows her why she’s experienced the lack of romantic and sexual feelings she’s experienced, and what to expect for the rest of her life. 

She no longer has to feel ashamed of her feelings, as she does at the beginning of the novel, but instead, can feel proud of who she is and know that there are others like her. 

“She’s happy with who she is. Maybe it’s not the heteronormative dream that she grew up wishing for, but… knowing who you are and loving yourself is so much better than that, I think,” Oseman wrote. 

There is no right way to experience love and Oseman’s novel demonstrates this fact. Even for individuals who identify as aromantic, asexual or both, love is not rigid, but a flowing spectrum. 

“The aromantic and asexual spectrums weren’t just straight lines. They were radar charts with at least a dozen different axes,” Oseman wrote. 

This statement is crucial in understanding how all sexualities work, not just asexuality. There is a spectrum and individuals may fall anywhere on that spectrum. 

Though Georgia doesn’t face nearly as much conflict as other aromantic, asexual individuals may face in real life outside the novel, she addresses the issue of other people’s opinions. 

“I don’t think I need to try everything to know I don’t like it,” Oseman wrote. 

Georgia understands that other people may not understand the concept of asexuality or aromanticism, as sometimes she finds it difficult to grasp herself, and she addresses this briefly in the novel. 

As Georgia finally learns to accept herself as she is, she finds the people closest to her accept her too. 

“I realised that it was because what I was doing wasn’t ‘giving up’. It was acceptance,” Oseman wrote.

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