You know that A in LGBTQA+? That would stand for "asexual." There are many ways someone can be asexual, but it basically means someone without interest in sexual relationships. They might be interested in romantic relationships, or not. They might be celibate or a virgin, or not (there are various reasons someone might choose to have sex anyway). They might be sex-repulsed, or sex-ambivalent. Someone who does not have any inclinations towards romantic love is aromantic. Someone who is romantically interested in the same sex would be homoromantic, and there's biromantic and panromantic as well.
A lot of YA fiction centers on romance, and I don't remember the last time I read a YA novel without at least a romantic subplot. Even Clariel, where the main character is asexual and aromantic, has a romantic subplot in which Clariel rebuffs the romantic advances of her fellow student. (He whines about the friendzone. She snaps at him. He persists. She remains aro/ace.)
It is easy to see why there is a lack of representation in YA. YA deals a lot with issues like puberty, hormones, first relationships, first sexual encounters, and finding sexuality. Asexuality is not a common theme. Sometimes, when a book has a romantic, non-sexual relationship, reviews will even accuse the author of neutering the relationship or of being disingenuous in representing teens' priorities. Asking for more asexuals to be represented in YA lit may even be interpreted by some as a call for censorship in disguise.
I went through the Amazon reviews for Clariel before I bought it. Many people complained about Clariel's solitary nature and her desire to live on her own and return to the forest as a Borderer. To me, her desire to get back to the forest and live alone, escaping an arranged marriage to a jerk in the process, was part of her asexuality. She was actively seeking a life where she could be useful to society and do what she enjoyed -- while escaping social norms that did not allow for asexuality in the mainstream culture. Her aunt, who also chose a life of solitude as an herbalist, is also implied to be asexual, so it is shown to be a viable option in this world. Yet it was the characteristic reviewers and consumers complained about the most.
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That went on a tangent -- but I wanted to talk about Clariel because it is only the second representation I personally have seen of an asexual character in written fiction. (The show version of Game of Thrones has an asexual character, but he's not asexual in the books.)
The only other asexual character I have encountered up till now was the mother from The World According to Garp. She is an aromantic asexual who molests and rapes a mentally disabled WWII veteran because she wants a child without having to be in a relationship. Her asexuality is used mostly to justify her feminism. (The "asexuals and feminists are just unnatural man-haters" stereotype.)
So...that was my only frame of reference for an asexual character up until now. Clariel, on the other hand, presents a well-rounded character with depth. Her asexuality is an important part of her identity, but hardly the most important or her one defining feature as in The World According to Garp.
If you know any other books featuring asexual characters, please leave a recommendation in the comments. :)
Also, there's a dragon in Clariel, so you should totally read it. The main character wears a Phantom-esque bronze mask and is a total badass, so there's that, too.