Title: None of the Above
Author: I. W. Gregorio
Publication: April 7th 2015 by Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss (thank you HarperCollins and Edelweiss!)
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Realistic
Other classifications: Bullying, LGBTQIA, Young Adult
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?
I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.
In the past two years I’ve been trying to actively diversify my reading, picking up books by and about people in the LGBTQ community. And I am fully aware that I’m still in the part where I’m more trying than actually doing, but until None of the Above, I didn’t realize the glaring inadequacy of my effort: I have not read a story that centers on an intersexual protagonist. But boy, am I glad this is my first dip; Gregorio delivers such a fascinating and sensitive look on how a young woman, who recently learns of her intersexuality, comes to terms with who and what she is—and how society wants to define her.
“Who decided that pink = girl and blue = boy, anyway?”
Let me tell you this: None of the Above doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of bullying and the politics of friendship and the anatomy side of its theme. I like that the decisions Krissy took weren’t exactly what I would’ve wanted for her but that they’re very realistic in her situation and true to the character. She spends a good part of the book being terrified and takes actions based on the people around her, on what they think and say about her, how they feel about her. She’s fleshed out, this Kristin Lattimer. I laud the author for writing a character who has other stuff going on in her life besides the Main Problem. Krissy’s a a hurdler, b the daughter of a single parent, c a graduating student, d best friends with campus Queen Vee and and-everything-nice Faith, and e the girlfriend of golden boy Sam Wilmington, and all these different facets of her the reader witnesses in nuanced details as things come down in a horrible snowball.
“Where could I run? Where could I possibly go to hide from what I was?”
Gregorio’s debut is pitched as “Middlesex meets Mean Girls,” I don’t know about the former as I haven’t read that but it’s a no-brainer to make the connection with the latter. I believe the relationship Krissy has with Vee and Faith. It’s tainted and at times ugly but it’s also the kind of close relationship we see in our everyday life. Gregorio packs all the wonders and complications of a tight-knit friendship in a box, with a bow. Not just that. The other secondary characters are also more than cardboards for display. And in the interest of not spoiling you, while catering to my self-fulfilling desire to put into words the engagement I had with this book… There were two episodes in the second act that incited a visceral reaction. (I read this in my phone and I was at the airport and I was ALL BIG EYES AS THOUGH I WAS SLAPPED.)
“Did I have any questions? My mind roiled with them, but it was like shooting a moving target—I couldn’t pin one down.”
I can go on and pretend—like the bogus that I am—that I didn’t care about the romance, but who am I kidding? Yes, there are other devices from which to choose to showcase pivotal points in a person’s life, but, what teenager does NOT give a darn about the woes of the heart? Having said that, I savor the slow burn romance and the easy banters. And if you haven’t read anything with an intersexual protagonist (welcome to the club—we have jackets), search no further. None of the Above is gripping, poignant and ultimately hopeful.
I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. During her residency, she met the intersex patient who inspired None of the Above, her debut novel. She is also a founding member of the We Need Diverse Books team.
Have you read a book with an intersexual character(s)? What are the books you’ve read and/or loved that portray friendship through clear, honest lenses? And will you read None of the Above? I’d love to hear from you!
UPDATED: The protagonist is INTERSEXUAL not transexual. I apologize for this mistake.