I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio
Published by HarperCollins on April 7th 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, LGBTQ, Young Adult
Source: ARC from Edelweiss, Review copy from publisher
A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she's intersex . . . and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.
What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?
When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.
But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."
Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?
[This review is coming to you in two formats! Because I also did a full video review over on my YouTube channel, I’ve embedded that video here. Read the review, watch the video, or do both!]
Let’s get something out of the way here: sometimes I like a book for reasons that have nothing to do with the plot. None of the Above is a pretty average contemporary novel. Kristin is a pretty average protagonist. And the romance in the novel is pretty average, though it felt a little forced at the end. The writing is fairly average (no complaints), the pacing was decent, and the secondary characters were okay.
I’m telling you this so you can understand why just the inclusion of a very important topic does not a five-star novel make. What I loved most about the book was that it tackled something that has rarely been approached in YA literature: intersex. Intersex identity is something that tends to be swept under the rug. Babies born intersex are often given surgeries at birth to “correct” their sex to either male or female, and many intersex people may not even know that they were born with ambiguous genitalia. I’m glad this book exists because it gives visibility to the “I” in LGBTQIA.
I liked this book. I like what this book does, and I like how the author put a lot of emotion behind her character. Kristin is devastated by her diagnosis because is complicates everything from her dating life to her future as a parent, but it also complicates her perception of her gender. Gender is something that, for many people, is very closely connected to our core identities. Finding out that one has a different chromosome can bring on a lot of doubts about fundamental identity. Beyond Kristen’s journey, I felt that Gregorio did a particularly good job writing Kristin’s father, who has a very complex reaction to the news that is wrapped up in his own grief over the loss of his wife (Kristin’s mother) to cervical cancer years before.
The rest of the novel was, as I noted at the beginning, rather average. It’s a debut novel written by a medical professional: Gregorio was inspired by an intersex teen she met during her medical residency. Gregorio clearly has writing talent, but I wasn’t blown away by the book. A big part of this was that I did not feel the reactions of Kristin’s classmates felt realistic. Maybe I’m naive, but I thought they were too mean, especially considering that Kristin is a feminine girl. Regardless of what makes up her chromosomes or if she has a uterus, I don’t think the bullying she experienced felt like what I would expect from actual high school students. But more than that, I was disappointed that she never stood up for herself. I didn’t expect her to do this right away, but I was waiting for her to get real with some people, rather than hide.
FINAL GRADE: B-
A pretty good book, definitely one I’d want in a library and on a YA lit syllabus. My hope is that the attention and buzz surrounding the book encourages publishers to take on more books about interesex (and transgender!) characters. I think YA is starting to be pretty good about the “LG” in “LGBTQIA,” and that readers are embracing these stories, but it’s time to spend more time in the shoes of transgender, intersex, bisexual, and asexual characters. Kudos to Gregorio for writing this book, and I recommend everyone give it at read!
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