"Tash Hearts Tolstoy": Your Asexual Main Character In A Not Ace-Focused Story

"Tash Hearts Tolstoy" is a typical young adult novel that follows Tash during the summer. However, as it turns out Tash is not that "typical" and her summer is filled with personal challenges: her older sister moves away to college, her family is getting a late addition, and she has to figure out a few personal things. However, the biggest change this summer is that she suddenly becomes famous, or at least internet famous - her small webseries which used to have 200 subscriptions has suddenly risen to over 50.000 during one night.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

The reason I picked up this novel was because it had slipped past me when hunting for books with asexual characters. And while it also tackles asexuality - which, we're going to dig into in a few paragraphs - it has much more to offer. Genre wise, it falls closer to a coming of age novel, just that we don't follow Tash from birth until death. Instead we follow from the end of a school year until her birthday at the end of the summer. During this time, she grows and changes as a character by facing different situations.

In doing so, there are issues brought up like long-lasting friendships that work without the traditional communication, difficult sibling relationships, realistic and unrealistic hopes and dreams for the future, as well as harder topics, like when your parents have another baby, and cancer.

Tash is a teenager and most of the time when facing these issues for the first time, it shows. The strangest reaction she had in my opinion, had been when she learned of her mother's pregnancy and she just couldn't believe how this could have happened and why she was only told after three months. Honestly, there is a very reasonable answer that most women miscarry within the first three months, and in a sense, that showed how awful the American sex education system is. However, as the novel progresses, she slowly comes to terms with everything.

This pattern is used in almost all of the situations she faces during the summer. And Ormsbee uses the length of the novel to slowly help Tash to get to terms with everything until, in the end, she has realistically matured.  This makes "Tash Hearts Tolstoy" into an enjoyable read because you can see the learning curve.

Then comes the asexuality part and this is the first book that I read that has an asexual character but isn't an asexual book. Tash's sexuality is as much part of the plot as it is of any other person - not very present in everyday life. Tash doesn't think about being asexual every day, only when a situation comes up that brings this topic up - such as her starting to crush on another boy.

Compared to "Let's Talk About Love" 

When reading "Tash Hearts Tolstoy" and enjoying it, I couldn't help but compare it to "Let's Talk About Love" by Claire Kann, which I did not enjoy. This makes me wonder, what is the difference. Both books follow a young woman through a summer of coming to age - albeit at slightly different ages. However, I think "Tash Hearts Tolstoy" is much better representation.

While Tash is not always open about being asexual, she is very confident in what she wants and does not want - kissing, yay, sex, nay. Furthermore, her friends are supportive of her choices and don't bring up any of the gross misconceptions. When those are brought up - i.e. "you just need to find the right man" - they are addressed and clearly pointed out as wrong. This is something that doesn't happen in "Let's Talk About Love".

In "Let's Talk About Love" Alice - the main character - starts to crush on a boy and thus begins to question her asexuality - meanwhile, most of her friends support this "change" in her sexuality as well. She is even singled out once because her friends left her alone at a party to have sex - and not only do the friends insist that Alice in in the wrong by feeling betrayed, the story later confirms this belief as well.

Meanwhile, in "Tash Hearts Tolstoy" Tash starts to crush on a boy and never waivers about her identity. She knows that she heteroromantic and asexual, and that her feelings about sex are "yikes". This never changes throughout the book, instead Tash realises that this could cause trouble for any relationship - and yes, sometimes Tash beats herself up because of this "otherness" but then the conversation partner comforts her, and reassures her that everything is okay. And sometimes, someone else beats her up because of this - i.e. saying that's just an internet thing, and you're scared of sex - but then Tash is sure about who she is and that the other person is an idiot.

I also felt that Tash's worries how her asexuality and repulsion towards sex could influence a relationship were realistic. In the end, this part of the story only becomes relevant when ... it is relevant.

However, I have to admit that sometimes the writing is a little bit of a let down. In terms of style it is closer to John Green than to Stephen King - which is all right for the genre. Since it is written in first person, you get a lot of Tash's voice and sometimes she is not a character you can always relate to. Especially when she has one her teenage tantrum moments, it is hard to not roll my eyes at her.

While this book crossed my path because I am always searching for asexual reads, "Tash Hearts Tolstoy" is not an asexual story ... while at the same time it is. However, dumbing it down to just that aspect would not do it justice. Overall, it a story of a girl who experiences a lot of change in her life during one summer and learns how to cope and come to terms with this. And it is a story that does well in doing so.

Tash Hearts Tolstoyby Kathryn Ormsbee
Published2017by Simon & Schuster
Goodreads:Add to shelf

Other Asexual Reads That Come Your Way: 

So far three novels - technically four - have crossed my path because they fall under asexual representation, they could not be more different. In the end, I find it hard to compare all three against each other and it depends more on what you are looking for.

If you are looking for a story that happens to have an asexual character but is not an asexual novel per se, "Tash Hearts Tolstoy" is your right pick.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for one that is more on the ace aspect and more about questioning, then "Let's Talk About Love" is for you. Even though, I, personally, found some parts disturbing.

Then there is "Perfect Rhythm" which is a lesbian love story where one person is asexual. This includes no questioning aspect. There is an explicit sex scene which could be a reason for some people to give it a pass.


  1. I've never read anything like this before and TBH it's not something I would normally pick up. That said, I do enjoy novels where the main character goes on a learning curve, which clearly happens in this book. Great review, Susanne, thank you! Lisa

    1. At first I wasn't sure about the novel myself but I really enjoyed it. Thank you for the nice comment :)

  2. This book sounds really interesting and I enjoyed reading your review. I'm always looking for book recommendations, especially at the moment while I'm self isolating. I'll need all the reading material I can get!

    Nicola | Nic's Healthy Life

    1. Thank you! And oh I agree, all the books now and time to attack that TBR pile! :) Stay safe ♥


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