Published by HarperCollins on 4/7/15
Genres: Bullying, Dating & Sex, Social Issues, Young Adult
My content rating: Mature YA (Characters have sex, though it's not explicit; Bullying; Mature themes)
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?
This book. You definitely need to read this book.
Okay, I guess I need to say something more coherent than that, but those are my initial thoughts on None of the Above. I honestly don’t know when I’ll stop thinking about this one, which makes it a definite five star read for me.
The book chronicles a teenage girl’s journey once she discovers that she is intersex – while she looks outwardly like a female, her chromosomes say she is male. As you can imagine, accepting this fact is difficult for Krissy, but her pain is compounded when word gets out and she is bullied at school. Her journey is compelling and emotional and Gregorio captures her story in a truly extraordinary way!
What I LOVED:
- Education and the emotional journey. One thing that I was incredibly impressed with was how much Gregorio managed to educate her readers about intersex without making it feel like she was educating. Gregorio is a doctor, and it showed in this book, but it didn’t feel dry or too technical. Intersex isn’t an issue of sexuality but a medical condition, and Gregorio made that very clear. While Krissy navigated the confusing facts about her condition, we learned too, which I truly appreciated. But, since the main focus was on Krissy’s emotional processing of the information, I never felt like I was being “taught.” I connected to Krissy from the very start of the book, and her emotional journey was compelling and heartbreaking!
- Realistic bullying. Another aspect of this book that I felt was handled beautifully was the bullying. There were a few people who treated Krissy outright horribly when they found out that she was a “hermaphrodite” (which is not really a good term for intersex, but it’s a common term that’s used in a pejorative way). She had people truly bully her – writing nasty things on her locker and putting disgustingly photoshopped pictures of her on Facebook – but just as bad were the more subtle reactions of Krissy’s classmates. Most people didn’t outright jeer her in public, but they stared at her strangely, got awkward around her and stopped talking to her or talked about her behind her back. (Those whispered, overheard conversations were easily just as painful, if not more than the outright bullying.) This seemed incredibly realistic to me. I mean, let’s face it, even those of us who consider ourselves “good” people who would never outright bully someone fall into the trap of awkwardness (and even gossip sometimes) – this book really helps shed light on the fact that these actions can be just as harmful as bullying.
- Characters we hate, but don’t. Again, I felt like Gregorio handled Krissy’s friends’ reactions really realistically (even if we didn’t always like them). First off, there was Sam, Krissy’s boyfriend. His response was probably the most horrifying because he supposedly loved her. I was truly disturbed by the way that Sam treated Krissy – and by the fact that he spread the word about her condition, triggering her bullying (we don’t know all the details about how the rumor spread, but it does seem to stem from Sam). While I hated the way that he reacted, let’s face it – it was probably pretty realistic. A teenage boy finds out that his girlfriend might technically be a boy. (That’s not true, since gender isn’t as simple as your chromosomes – but looking at it from an ignorant teenage boy perspective, that’s not such an unreasonable conclusion.) There are probably a lot of boys out there who would react really negatively to that. The fact that it’s a medical condition that Krissy has no control over might make him feel bad about his reaction, but it wouldn’t necessarily make his emotional response any different – even if he wanted it to be. Add in a little peer pressure from friends who are outright bullies and – voila! – recipe for disaster! So, while I was truly disappointed and disgusted with Sam’s treatment of Krissy, I thought that Gregorio was portraying it pretty accurately. I was going to talk about Krissy’s friends here, too, but I went on about Sam so much that I think I’ll split that into another bullet point …
- Friends or enemies? Like I said, I appreciated the accurate portrayal of the range of reactions to Krissy’s condition. Her two best friends responded wildly differently – Faith tried to be uber-supportive while Vee seemed supportive at first, but lashed out when it turned into a confrontation. It was hard not to hate Vee for a good portion of the book, but you find out it’s more complicated than you first think. There is a lot more to what happens with her two friends, but I really can’t say anything about it because I would definitely be spoiling things – suffice it to say that their reactions were complex and realistic, under the circumstances. Then there were people who Krissy really wasn’t close to before she discovered the she was intersex, but who became her true support system when she felt most vulnerable. I loved that Gregorio showed that some people were able to accept Krissy for exactly who she was and not make a big deal about it (there’s even a romance, though it’s not a major focus of the story, which I appreciated). On a side note, I was very thankful for the way that Gregorio handled Christianity in the book – at first, I was afraid that she was going to have the Christians be really judgmental and negative. I was a little sad that Krissy and her father left their church after her mom died (even though her mom was a Sunday school teacher and obviously a strong believer) and I was afraid that was going to be a pre-cursor to a “Christians are bad” viewpoint – but my fears were unfounded. The two most religious characters in the book (Faith and Aunt Carla) were both supportive and tried their best to treat Krissy with love (though they both definitely had flaws – especially Faith – but that’s realistic too!).
- Tough subject matter? Honestly, I didn’t really feel like the book had any major flaws, but I do know that some people may have trouble with the bullying and with such a serious and difficult subject. If this is you, I encourage you to still seriously consider reading this book. Honestly, I think that the benefits of broadening your understanding of a genetic condition that can be viewed so negatively far outweighs any misgivings you may have.
None of the Above is a heartbreaking portrayal of one girl’s journey to accept herself and to find acceptance in a world where issues of gender are often treated flippantly or with outright disgust. It sheds important light on the way we view gender and how our intolerance can bring incalculable harm. This book is a must read. I give it 5/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
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