So, this is the first review for my Mystery Grab Bag Ace Fiction Month.
Hi Sara. What is this story about?
Two teenagers, Ramona and Sam, go to the same elite high school, and make music together. Ramona is in love with Sam, but does not tell him. Sam is in love with Ramona, but assumes that if she loved him romantically, she would have said so already, and is afraid to confess his own romantic feelings because he is afraid of ruining his friendship.
Then Ramona meets Tom. She decides immediately that they must get him to join their band. Tom does in fact click with Sam and Ramona, and their band becomes better than ever. Ramona also falls in love with Tom, even though she is still in love with Sam, and deals with being in love with two guys at the same time. She asks Tom if he will be her boyfriend, and he says yes. This makes Sam feel bad because Sam wishes he were Ramona’s boyfriend. Tom loves Ramona and wants to be her boyfriend, but his previous girlfriend broke up with him because he was not interested in having sex with her, and he’s afraid that Ramona will want to break up with him when she figures out that he is not interested in sex…
That sounds like a love triangle, Sara.
What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?
There is no sex, though there is brief descriptions of kissing and hand-holding. A character does kill goldfish (not so much because he wants the goldfish to die, as that he wants to do something which has the effect of killing goldfish).
Sara, please tell me more about this novel.
First of all, it’s set in St. Louis. Even though I have only spent a little time in St. Louis, I do think the fact that I have been to St. Louis helped me appreciate this novel a little better. It particular, it helped me visualize some of the scenes.
It’s an easy, breezy read, and it took be a little while to get engaged. It did, eventually, engage me. One thing I really like about this novel is that it captures a sense of what high school and teenagerhood felt like for me which I find missing in most fiction about high school / teenagers (another work of fiction which I feel captures this sense is the manga Flower of Life by Fumi Yoshinaga). What am I talking about exactly? A sense of creativity and adventure and the exploration of which rules are necessary and which rules are made to be broken which I associate with high school life. I certainly found the arts (not music in particular, though I definitely attended more classical music performances as a high school student than at any other time in my life) much more interesting and a part of my life as a teenager than romantic drama. I realize that most teenagers are not as artsy as I was.
I caught the metaphor of Ramona having two instruments that she is dedicated to – the piano which she started playing at the age of four, and the drums which she started playing during her last year of middle school. It’s a metaphor for her being in love with both Sam and Tom. Just as she can love and be devoted to two different musical instruments, she can love and be devoted to two different guys.
I also related a lot with this part:
I want to be educated. I want to read books at the time of my choosing … I don’t want a career, just to be able to find work when I need it.
As it so happens, I did go to college, but when I was near the end of high school, I actually gave serious consideration to the possibility of not going to college. I have never had the slightest interest in attending grad school. While I will not say that I regret getting a bachelor’s degree, I think that if I were to do it over again, I would have stopped at getting an associate’s degree and not bother with a bachelor’s degree. And after I left college, I did in fact travel at lot. I also don’t want a career, just work when I need it. Education is important to me, but I prefer to educate myself by reading lots of books and experiencing the school of life to educating myself in a classroom.
There is also, throughout the novel, examples of lyrical language.
And here is a bit which really hit me in the feels:
Twice I had screaming meltdowns because Dad wouldn’t let us go to the hospital until I’d done that day’s reading.
Mom stopped responding to treatment, but there was an experimental drug doctors wanted to try.
When I told Mom about playing piano, she didn’t respond as eagerly as she always had before. She always wanted to know how reading was going. Stressful, upsetting reader – it seemed like that was all anyone cared about anymore.
Finally, Mom and Dad told me that the doctors were moving her to hospice. Hospice wasn’t a new way of fighting cancer. The fight was over; cancer had won.
Mom was still alive, but her life was over. She’d toured Europe as a professional musician; she’d had a husband and child. It wasn’t a bad life, but it was over, and it was all she would ever have.
Yes, I know that a lot of people ‘graduate’ out of hospice care (as in, their condition improves, and it turns out they are not going to die so soon after all). I think of this as a beautiful expression of what this felt like from a child’s perspective, rather than an absolute statement that the life of anyone who goes to hospice is over.
The word ‘asexual’ is never used in the novel, but it is very clear that it is a part of this novel. This is the first scene where asexuality comes up:
“But you’re gay, Tom. And that’s okay, but-”
“We need to break up.”
“I’m not gay,” I said. I put my hands on her shoulders to steady both of us. “I just don’t feel that way about anybody.”
I’d said it.
I’d told Sara what I had never said aloud to anyone ever before.
“You don’t…” She frowned and shook her head.
“I’m not gay. I’m not straight. I just don’t really care about sex.”
“You don’t care. About sex.” She said it like I’d said I didn’t care about curing cancer.
“I don’t know why,” I said. I tried to gather together my years of puzzling over this and lay it all before her. “I just never developed this obsession with sex that everyone else has. It’s never interested me, and it just seems to cause everyone else a lot of trouble. But I love you, Sara. I think you’re so smart and beautiful, and I love being with you. I just don’t want to have sex with you.”
I looked at her, and she looked at me, and I hoped that she could accept me.
“No, Tom,” she said. “That’s not possible.”
“It’s true, I-”
“You need to do some thinking, Tom,” she said. It was starting to annoy me how often she was saying my name. “Everybody’s sexual. You’re in denial about something, and it’s not fair to either of us to keep up with this charade of a relationship.”
Sara, you big meanie! How dare you say something like that to a guy who all but came out to you as asexual!
HEY! The ‘Sara’ is the novel is not me, okay? There are plenty of people in the world who go by the name of ‘Sara’. Some of us are ace, and some of us tell people who all but come out as ace that they are wrong and just in denial. Do not confuse the ace!Sara people of the world with the TellAcesTheyAintAces!Sara people of the world.
Fine, back to talking about asexuality.
On the asexuality content scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I would rate this novel as a 4.
Other than that … well, it’s pretty much what the excerpt above suggests. A big part of Tom’s plotline is being afraid that Ramona is going to dump him the same way Sara dumped him once Ramona finds out that he is not sexually interested in her. Worse, he’s afraid that Ramona will tell him that something is wrong with him, just as Sara did.
Tom feels like an authentic ace character to me, with struggles that many aces have.
Was this written by an asexual?
I don’t know.
Hey Sara, do you like this novel?
YES. I liked this novel. I really liked this novel.