Published by Balzer + Bray on April 7th 2015
Genres: Bullying, Depression & Mental Illness, LGBT, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 328 •Format: Hardcover •Source: ALA
A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born 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?
“The biggest difference between boy and girls is how people treat them”
None of the Above is one of those books that I had on my radar constantly in 2015, but never got around to reading for some inexplicable reason. When I saw that my close friend Lauren from Bookmarklit was reading it this month, I figured it was the perfect time to move it to the top of my TBR. I found it to be an incredibly fast and easy read to finish while in my wisdom teeth recovery, which focused on the issue of intersex with what seemed to be great medical research and care, despite having a bit of a lackluster execution in terms of writing style and plot.
I.W. Gregorio’s depiction of Kristin discovering she is intersex coming to terms with her body is realistic and raw, and I appreciate that she didn’t hold back on the graphic or uncomfortable elements. Kristin first discovers that something isn’t quite right about about her anatomy the first time she tries to experience physical intimacy with her boyfriend. She does the sensible, if scary, thing and goes to the doctor to find an explanation for the pain. After a series of tests, the medical results point to Kristin being intersex, a condition where she actually has both male and female chromosomes and hormones in her body. The novel progresses with Kristin’s reactions to dealing with her diagnosis on physical, emotional, and social levels.
I think where None of the Above really excelled is how it portrayed the spectrum of both medical and psychological treatment and repercussions for Kristin. It explained how varied different versions of intersex can be, and it had a clear message that being intersex is not in itself a disorder, and that each person has the autonomy to deal with the condition in their own way, whether that influences their decision to get surgery, take hormones, influence their gender identity, etc. The novel even showed the nuances in different doctor’s approaches- and sometimes even mistakes- when it came to treating intersex patients View Spoiler »(such as when the first OBGYN Kristin sees who recognizes her condition uses the antiquated term “hermaphrodite,” and how that sets the tone for how horrified Kristin is of her diagnosis for the rest of the novel). « Hide Spoiler
However, while the novel provided detailed insight on the medical implications of being intersex, the social portrayal was less nuanced. Once Kristin’s diagnosis inevitably leaks, her classmate’s cruelty is extremely swift and brutal with almost no transition and while harsh, lacked some authenticity. Kristin’s small family and friend support system, while well meaning, weren’t very impressionable nor did they play as integral of a role as I would have expected in a story of this nature. There was a particularly scary incident at the end of the novel did portray how dangerous ignorance and anger toward those with the condition can be, but other than that I never felt particularly convinced by the social and plot elements of the novel. Perhaps because I’ve read Middlesex which is an incredible, literary fiction work dealing with an intersex protagonist that my expectations for None of the Above were not quite met from a writing and storytelling perspective.
Overall: None of the Above was educational and informative about a topic that I don’t think I’ve seen addressed yet in YA. I applaud Gregorio’s attention to the medical details in the novel (which makes sense, as she is a medical professional herself). However, I found the social elements of Kristin’s diagnosis to be less authentic and the writing itself to be pretty average View Spoiler »(including a romance that just seemed waaay too convenient. I just wish Kristin hadn’t had to have a romantic element in her story in order to somehow validate her ability to still live a normal life). « Hide Spoiler A novel I’m glad I read for sure, and one that brings much needed diversity to YA literature.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Goodreads Challenge 2016
- Must Read in 2016 Challenge
- Rock My TBR 2016