Sunday, January 15, 2017

None of the Above: Exploring Intersex and Loving Yourself

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

Published 2015 by Harper Collins

328 pages, contemporary realistic fiction.


I read this and am posting this review on the final day of the Dumbledore's Army Read-a-Thon.  I don't write many reviews (such a rebel book blogger!), but you get POINTS for reviewing, and there's nothing like a little competition to motive a person.



And this is a review-worthy book, for sure.

We first meet our narrator, Kristin, on a run with her boyfriend Sam.  She's athletic, affectionate, and popular without being snobby.  Her mother died of cancer years ago, and she and her father work around the pain as they look after each other.  Her two best friends are girls she's known since birth, a Queen Bee type and the sweet smoother-over who keeps everyone happy.   That job becomes necessary when Kristin wins homecoming queen, something they'd all assumed her bitchy friend was a shoo-in for.

The book quickly veers into "This for sure needs to be on the PG-13 shelf" territory when she and her boyfriend decide to go all the way, but the experience is so painful that they end up stopping.  She then, in perhaps the least believable part of the book, takes herself to a clinic to meet with an OB-GYN.  I wish I believed that most 17 year old girls would make that logical choice, but somehow I think there'd be a lot more dithering, embarrassment, and denial before she got there.  Maybe a college student would march over to Campus Health, but I think a middle class girl like Kristin wouldn't think "women's clinic!" the second her first sexual experience didn't live up to expectations.

BUT it's important that she do so, because the bulk of the book hinges on what happens next.  It is discovered that Kristin is intersex--born without any external male organs, but also without any internal female organs.  The medical and social explaining that happen next fit very naturally into the story, as Kristin, of course, knows nothing about her newly discovered situation and has a ton of questions.

The author is an MD, so I feel confident the information presented is accurate.  While not an #ownvoices narrative, she also clearly has done lots of research and interviews.  In her note at the end, she says she even had Kristin make some medical decisions that she, the doctor, disagrees with, but that seemed consistent with the character and her situation.

I found the rest of the book, in which Kristin struggles to first understand and accept her new reality, and then to figure out how to live in a world in which her personal medical history has been leaked to her entire high school, to be well told and believable.  There's a nice balance between people who support her (like her dad, a much more solid presence than many YA parents) and those who revile her, including some she thought she could rely on.  There's a tacked on romance that did very little for me, but most of the focus is on Kristin's own growth and learning.

"One day I would find my own place," she thinks as she starts gathering her courage to participate in life again.  "I wouldn't run there, though, because it didn't exist yet; I had to build it myself, out of forgiveness, truth, and terrifying gestures of friendship." (pg. 305)  This quote illuminates the way this book, while offering representation to a fairly unknown and misunderstood group, also is very relatable to anyone who's ever had to, well, grow up.  We all have to build our own place.



4/5 stars




3 comments:

  1. Great review! I’ve seen this book around, but I didn’t really know what it was about. It’s interesting that it was written by a doctor. I just added it to my massive TBR list.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Another blogger pointed out that there's some questionable stuff in here. I just thought it was realistic that there'd be bigotry and self-loathing as the characters dealt with the new information, but I can see that the author didn't clarify enough in some cases that being transgender, or anywhere else on the spectrum of gender identity besides where the protag is, is also completely okay.

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    2. I read that too---I do think that with books like this it's hard to please everyone because no one person's experience can represent a whole group. Of course, we want to see books where intersex individuals are empowered and confident, but that's not going to be everyone's story. Intersex people who find themselves confused and even scared might relate to this book in many ways. Of course, I can't claim to be an authority on this, but I do see both sides of the issue.

      Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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