Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Me on None of the Above

Title: None of the Above
Author: I.W. Gregorio
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

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?

None of the Above is intense, compelling, emotional, and powerful. It's about the changes in one girl's life when she discovers she's intersex. The changes in her body, the changes in the people around her. The changes in her own thoughts and feelings about who she is and what it means to be a girl. Or a guy. Or neither. Or both.

Kristin is smart, personable. A bright girl with a clear voice. A bright future ahead of her, but then her world shifts and falls out from under her. For her, this is an impossible situation. Never would she have ever imagined this to happen. Her sadness, her floundering, her attempts at trying to cope and move on. All are written with such honesty and believability.

This book raises a number of questions regarding, sex, gender, and identity. Sex is biological while gender is a social construct. How we define each when it comes to ourselves makes up part of our identity. How we see ourselves alone, in public. But what happens when who we are biologically suddenly conflicts with how we see ourselves socially? Kristin's disconnect between the two is visceral. Nothing feels right, nothing feels 'normal.' Everything feels wrong. But nothing is wrong with her. It's hard for her to move past that in the beginning, past the 'male or female please pick one' gender binary that's been drummed into our heads for centuries. It's hard for her to understand that she can still be a girl. It's hard for her to understand that it's all up to her. It's her decision on who she wants to be and not anyone else's.

When Kristin's peers take the knowledge of her being intersex and turn it against her, it's horrifying and smacks of prejudice. It's a fear of the other, of the unknown. Suddenly she's different in their eyes, she's not the same person. It's not about them, even though they make it about them. Every time they joke about it, every time they catcall her with slurs and names. What right do they have to take this big change and make it bigger, darker, more painful? They act like she did this on purpose. It's frightening, knowing how cruel people can be, how their opinions can change so quickly because of something they can't see. Ignorance is rampant. It ruins lives. It must be stopped.

This is an honest, eye-opening, heartfelt look at identity, at gender identity, at what makes us think we're male or female, or neither, or both. I wanted to reach into the book and hug Kristin at every speed bump, every moment she felt like she was less than a girl. Less than human. Nothing is wrong with her and she struggles to remember that every day. She shouldn't have to.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from HarperCollins Canada.)

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