Monday, May 18, 2015

None of the Above

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (2015)

Kristin Lattimer is a track star, was just voted homecoming queen, and has a hot boyfriend. But when she decides it's time to have sex with aforementioned hot boyfriend, something is not quite right. A doctor's visit reveals that Kristin has an intersex condition called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. She reels at the diagnosis, struggling to understand what it means, but before she can even come to terms with it privately, the entire school knows. Her best friend has betrayed her, her boyfriend wants nothing to do with her, and she doesn't want to lay it all on her father who is still trying to move on after the heartbreak of her mother's death.

Technically, I suppose this is an "issue" book, but really it's just a great story about being a teenage girl and dealing with high school drama. Having a confusing medical diagnosis is all just part of the story.

One of my favorite things about this novel is that Kristin has sex and drinks alcohol without it being some sort of moral lesson. I have mentioned before how much I dislike every single YA character being such a goody two-shoes. Usually when sex or drinking or anything like that comes up, it's part of some moral struggle. Female characters rarely just want to have sex for the fun of it, and if they're drinking alcohol they will pay. Here, it's just part of her life. Sure, she gets hungover but her drinking isn't really part of the story, it's just something she does. And the sex is just how she comes to find out about her intersex condition. I found it all extremely refreshing.

I also loved that Kristin still had friends after her diagnosis. When everyone at school found out, she was horribly bullied and humiliated, but not by everyone. Usually in this sort of book, the main character will be totally ostracized and then find one magical friend who stands by them. Kristin began the book with two best friends, and one of them stuck with her the whole way. Other school acquaintances also showed sympathy, or at least disgust at the behavior of those who were making fun of her. This seemed way more real to me than everyone in the entire school banding together to torture her. Kristin spent a lot of the story not realizing how many people were sympathetic, but I found her paranoia totally realistic.

The only thing that struck me a bit odd at all was that Kristin and some of her friends volunteered at a health clinic and were involved in patient visits. I was skeptical that student volunteers would have actual patient contact, but Gregorio is a surgeon so she'd certainly know more about that than I would. It was a pretty under-funded clinic in a poor part of town, so maybe they're more open to that sort of thing.

I.W. Gregorio, like Aisha Saeed, is part of We Need Diverse Books. Once again I was happy to read a book that speaks about an under-represented population but that is also just a great story that is well told. I loved Kristin's relationship with her father, and her friendships, and her love of running, and her friend Darren who was always so nice to her, and how much she missed her mother who died of cancer. She was really fleshed out and realistic and I felt like her friends and family were also very easy to picture as I was reading. Kristin's voice was authentic and through her I learned a lot about what it means to be intersex.

Other books I've read about people who are intersex include Middlesex and Annabel, both of which I loved. Do you know of any others to recommend?

I don't know if I.W. Gregorio just wrote this as a one-off and will be concentrating on her medical work, but I certainly hope she'll write some more books.

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