None of the Above, by I.W. Gregorio
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 7, 2015)
Page Count: 352 pages
Genre: Young Adult LGBTQIA+
Rating: 5 out of 5
That’s when I realized that life was a multiple-choice test with two answers: Male or Female. And I was None of the Above.
In a world where most forms and applications still only offer two gender options, None of the Above is both a poignant and painful novel to get through. I say painful not because it was a difficult book to enjoy, but because it was a difficult book to read. The stigma and phobia attached to the term ‘intersex’ (and the older, pejorative term ‘hermaphrodite’) is almost physically painful to read about, especially with the humiliation and bullying that accompanies Kristin’s diagnoses.
But it was also an eye-opener in a way, reading about the pain, physical and emotional, that a teenage girl goes through when faced with society’s response to a rare genetic syndrome. It hurt, but it made me appreciate and respect the intersex community even more.
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?
For a woman, the first time having sex is often painful. Kristen expects a little bit of discomfort; what she doesn’t expect is screaming agony, tears, and a flood of embarrassment. Her boyfriend, Sam, seems to understand, but her best friend Vee convinces Kristen to go see a gynecologist. And suddenly, eighteen years of certainty are thrown out the window.
Think about your deepest, darkest secret. Now imagine having that secret revealed to your entire high school, without your consent. Teenagers are cruel, and ignorance leads to fear and hatred. Kristen, the girl who had everything going for her, finds life taking a complete one-eighty.
I honestly believe this is a book that anyone can enjoy. Yes, the protagonist is a teen girl, and it’s clearly marketed toward the young adult audience. But everyone has a secret they don’t want to get out, and many people remember high school as a period they’re glad to have left behind. So I think Kristen’s story can really resonate with a lot of people.
Gregorio introduces a lot of educational facts about what it means to be intersex through Kristen’s conversations with her doctor, her father, and the other women she meets in the intersex community. It should feel a bit like getting a lecture, but Gregorio infuses the information with Kristen’s emotional reactions, making every scene feel real and interesting.
I really loved every moment of this book, even when it was painful. Before reading this, I’d heard the term intersex before, and had a general understanding of what it meant. But this is the first novel I’ve read with an intersex protagonist, so it was a learning experience as well as a brilliant story about a teenager trying to adjust her understanding of who (and what) she is.
I hope that, with the release of this book and the praise it’s received, people will become more educated about the intersex community, and the stigma attached to it will fade away into history.
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