“Blank Spaces” by Cass Lennox

It’s been a little while since I reviewed an LGBTQ+ book, which is uncharacteristic for me, so let’s go back to that genre for a while and look at something very exciting: a book with a canonically asexual character! I know. Take a moment to pick your lower jaw up off the floor.

blank-spaces

Publication date: November 14th, 2016

You see, I can count on my fingers — probably on one hand — the number of books I’ve read with ace characters, especially those that involve any kind of in-depth exploration about what asexuality actually is and how it affects people and their relationships. So when I come across a book that features one, especially one where a character discovers and learns about asexuality on the page, I’m obviously going to be biased towards it.

The more books with asexual characters that are written and published, the fewer people will go through life believing they’re broken for not experiencing sexual attraction in the same way as the people around them. It’s as simple as that. And while there is more and more queer fiction on the shelves every year, ace characters are still painfully rare. So finding any is pretty close to miraculous.

That said, the book itself wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. The plot revolves around a seemingly mismatched pair of characters: one is asexual but interested in a romantic relationship, whereas the other is obsessed with sex and hookups but isn’t sure he believes himself capable of having a deeper relationship. It was interesting to see how they worked around this and got to know each other, opening up and lowering their guard the longer they knew each other… well, you know how I feel about books where romance is the focus, right?

There are also a fair few sex scenes that are pretty explicit. Jonah, the non-asexual character, is the kind of person who hooks up with strangers in gay bars, often in front of everybody. I didn’t particularly enjoy reading those scenes, even if I understood why they were necessary for his character development.

There’s an element of mystery to the book, because there have been art thefts from the gallery where Vaughn works. However, I managed to figure out whodunnit pretty early on, which took away some of the tension. I enjoyed the reveal of how and the various details, but most of the plot therefore was focused around the romantic element and the development of that relationship. As I find it hard to be vastly invested in that kind of thing, it therefore wasn’t as interesting to me as it might have been.

I felt the character development was definitely a strength, and it was interesting to see how Vaughn’s wealth versus Jonah’s poverty and deprived upbringing affected their approach to the world and to relationships. It created an interesting tension between them. And as I’ve already mentioned, I enjoyed the inclusion of an asexual character, and the way the book tackled a few of the major issues the ace community faces (such as debates about whether or not they should be ‘allowed’ to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, which I see way too often on Tumblr).

However, on the whole this book didn’t quite hit my spots, so while it might work for others, I had kind of mixed feelings. (And it’s probably not one for people who are squicky about sex scenes or who don’t approve of hook-ups and that kind of thing, because they form a fairly major part of it.)

Rating: ***

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