– goodreads –
Since the start of April, I’ve mostly emerged from my months-long slump and I’ve been downright craving fluff. Sweet, slow books where all ends well, yes please, give me all of them. I heard of Mindtouch a while ago, as a slice of life book with an asexual romance I might like. And since this year’s Bingo has an aro/ace square and I spotted this book was free…it seemed perfect.
In the end, have so many conflicted feelings about it. It was indeed fluffy and comfy and I couldn’t stop reading all right. But some of the worldbuilding choices are…questionable at best and the same goes for ace represenataion.
The premise is simple. Jahir, an esper from a reclusive and xenophobic species leaves his world to study xenopsychology. On his first day, he meets Vasiht’h playing with some children in front of the hospital, and they become roommates. The rest of the book is made up of them studying, socialising, Vasiht’h introducing Jahir to all the things his world lacks, exploring their rare abilities, and visiting the group of terminally ill children in the hospital. What conflict there is, is minor and interpersonal or related to their studies, and there’s no real climax or plot (though it’s firmly not standalone). It’s pure slice of life and tooth-achingly sweet.
And it’s exactly the quietness and lack of plot I enjoyed the most. In fact, whenever I picked it up, I couldn’t stop reading and went through it in large bursts rather than picking at it little by little as I usually do. It was like a warm hug.
Well, at least until some more worldbuilding dropped. I got used to the whole anthopomorphic animals thing surprisingly easily at the start. Not up my alley at all, but not much different than having any other kind of alien in practice. But when it was revealed that the Pelted were initially genetically engineered by humans for sex – I could not buy that. At all. For several reasons. It both majorly broke my suspension of disbelief and seemed out of place in an otherwise very mild book. To be clear: nobody in-universe considers it in any way okay. But still, why.
That one line put me off so much I put the book down for a few days.
The treatment of asexuality was similarly sketchy. It’s revealed that Vasiht’h’s species is asexual as a byproduct of genetical engineering and that they consider themselves passionless and unemotional (although this is pretty firmly disproven). The relationship also didn’t seem like a romance, I’d label it vaguely queerplatonic if I had to, which is fine, but not what it was recommended to me as. And just…can’t we have an asexual character who is naturally ace because they are ace like gay people are gay, no explanation or excuses necessary? Not a robot or someone who was otherwise made such? Not implied to be inhuman or lacking in emotion or otherwise less-than?
Still, even though those two paragraphs sound pretty ranty, I did enjoy the book and I do want to read the sequel some day, when I feel in need of more feel-good stories. But it’s pretty hard to recommend without some major caveats.
Recommended to: fellow fans of fluffy slice of life, those who like school stories and settings where therapy is a thing, those looking for anthopomorphic animals in their SFF
Not recommended to: those looking for asexual representation or romance, anyone who needs a book with conflict beyond some angst