A brief intro before the actual review, which is below a horizontal line if you want to skip this:
It’s been a long time since I last really wrote a book review here. In that review of On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis I also outlined some important issues to keep in mind with Autistic representation in fiction, as well as my own experiences of feeling not represented very well in fiction in general.
As a child I read a ton of fiction, but it wasn’t to help me better understand myself, it was more to help me better understand everyone else around me.
As an adult I’ve spent much more time reading non-fiction, but recently I’ve been picking up more fiction, especially fiction by Autistic authors, and it’s been a very good thing.
Okay! Enough of that, on to the actual review of The Kiss Quotient (TKQ) an own-voices Romance by Helen Hoang!
I really enjoyed this book. I found the writing style both easy and pleasant to read. The storyline was excellent. I love the premise and found it extremely relatable, despite being very different myself from Stella (the Autistic main character/MC).
Some differences between us:
Stella seems to be very cisgender and heterosexual, while I am neither. She’s also Asian American while I’m a very white American. She’s a single career-woman, while I’ve been married for over a decade and a half and have never managed to hold down a job for very long at a time.
My life situation and Stella’s are extremely different in general, but I could still see so much of myself in her.
We are both Autistic.
Neither of us have a whole lot of experience with romance or dating.
Stella’s worries about intimacy mirror my own. Her awkwardnesses and social faux pas are extremely relatable. In all honesty, had I ended up being single in my late-20s I would’ve seriously considered hiring an escort and asking to be taught how to romantically interact with men (side note: I’m not particularly interested in men either romantically or sexually so hopefully I would’ve figured that out in the process as well, but still, that idea was so very logical and relatable!).
Stella’s sensory issues were also extremely relatable. The discussions about clothing being comfortable and her solutions for those issues were fun to read in part because I struggle with the exact same things!
The Romance genre is one that I have very little experience reading, so I can’t really compare it to other Romance books. It was fun and light and exciting to follow Stella’s story and the book contained all the elements I’m aware of that are necessary for a good, solid Romance genre book.
I absolutely loved the emphasis on consent in Stella’s relationship with Michael!!! That was one of my very favorite aspects of this book. It was just wonderful!
I consider consent to be the most important component of any relationship, whether romantic or not, and this book shows how consent can be included in very steamy scenes and not be heavy-handed or distracting at all. The gaining of consent very naturally flowed from the main characters’ personalities. There’s some great boundary-setting in the book as well.
I’m not a very sexual (or romantic) person and I saw “too much sex” as a complaint in one review of TKQ, but my understanding of the genre is that there is often quite a lot of sex and so I actually found there to be less sex than I was expecting. Also, most of the sex scenes were extremely relatable due to the descriptions of Stella’s rich (and often overwhelming) sensory experiences, which was helpful for me.
All in all, I thought it was great Autistic representation! So much so that I’m tempted to ask Counterpart to read it just so he can get more of an idea of what I experience in our relationship.
Stella was not a stereotype. Her entire personality was complex and varied. She’s not just a list of “deficits” from the DSM. Her struggles with issues of internalized ableism and navigating the dating world while also respecting her own needs were very compelling.
Definitely a book I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys romance stories and/or who would like to read a good, balanced own-voices representation of an Autistic woman in fiction!
I give The Kiss Quotient a 5 out of 5.