Wellesley College graduate Ann Zhao goes back to school in her debut book “Dear Wendy.” The books follows Sophie and Jo, two aromantic and asexual students at Wellesley who engage in an online feud while unknowingly becoming friends in real life.

In the young adult novel, Sophie has long accepted her identity, and knows she’ll never fall in love – but loves anonymously running an Instagram account “Dear Wendy” where she provides relationship advice to her fellow college students.

Enter Jo, a fellow first-year, aromantic student at Wellesley who makes a competing, more lighthearted account called “Sincerely Wanda” as a joke – but it takes off as a serious competitor to Sophie’s “Dear Wanda.” Tensions rise between the two students online, while they grow closer as friends in real life.

Zhao joined GBH News to talk about what aromantic representation means to her and her new book, which is out now. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Haley Lerner: These social media advice accounts are the center of the book's story and conflict. Where did you get the idea?

Ann Zhao: I decided to do these Instagram accounts rather than a newspaper column or anything like that because Wellesley College has this culture of having odd Instagram accounts.

I was particularly inspired by an account called Wellesley Crushes, where people can submit crush confessions, and the account will just post them. Most of the time the crush confessions are not serious at all. They're just people shouting out their friends. I don't know if anybody has ever gotten together because of that account, but I think it's very fun.

Lerner: This book is very specific to the culture at Wellesley College. Why did you decide to set this book at your alma mater?

Zhao: It felt much more effortless to set the book at a place that I knew so well. Rather than making up a school or putting it at a real school that I've never even visited.

I selfishly really hope that Wellesley College students enjoy this book, because I think I really poured a lot of the most enjoyable parts of Wellesley into this book.

Lerner: Both Sophie and Jo are aromantic and asexual. Why do you think it's important to represent these identities that are not often seen in a lot of media?

Zhao: It was really important to me because I didn't see as much of that representation growing up. Most of the books that I can name came out after I had already figured out my own identity. I was really looking to see more of that representation on the page for sure.

I also just hope that young readers, especially Asian American BIPOC queer readers, are able to see themselves in Sophie.

Lerner: This is a love story between two friends, but a platonic one. Why was this story of friendship one you wanted to tell?

Zhao: I think it's really important to tell stories about friendships that are just as magical and life changing as romantic relationships. For a lot of people – whether they're asexual, aromantic or not – they are the most important relationships that you have in your life.

I was really looking to see that kind of story being told in a fictional setting, because it would really help kids who maybe have been conditioned by society to think that they should be only looking for a romantic partner, when really we need to cultivate all kinds of relationships in our lives. Because just having a romantic partner by itself is no way to live, I think, and it's very lonely, in fact.

Lerner: If there was one piece of advice you wish you heard from Dear Wendy in college, what would it be?

Zhao: Gosh, I would have liked it if Dear Wendy had told me to just calm down a little bit and to not be so worried about the changes in my life that I was going through.

I had a very similar experience to Jo where, when my friends started getting into relationships, I was very uncomfortable with it because they were sort of pulling away from me in order to be with this new person that I didn't even know.

I really felt like I just needed someone to tell me, “It's going to be fine, you're not completely losing your friend.” It is a little bit weird that there's just suddenly this new person in their life, but you're going to get to know them better. And if it works out, then you'll be super happy for your friend. And if it doesn't work out, then you'll be there to comfort your friends. Everything is going to be fine.

Ann Zhao will be at a book launch event at Porter Square Books in Cambridge on April 17 at 7 p.m. More information can be found here.