Published by Balzer + Bray on April 7, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, LGBT
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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?
Looking for a diverse book? None of the Above ticks all of the boxes – feminism, sexuality, gender identity, and what it means to be a hermaphrodite. Now I thought being a transsexual and hermaphrodite were the same thing, but this book surely opened my eyes to what it meant to be intersex – or a female, with male reproductive organs.
It starts off quite deceivingly, with Kristin being crowned the Homecoming Queen with her popular boyfriend. Soon after, Kristin finds out she has male testicles – that she’s intersex. I’m not quite sure why it took her so long to find out – along with other bodily irregularities – she never had her period, which would definitely be a cause for concern. Kristin’s doctor is pretty straightforward about her diagnosis, and refers her to support groups. She was a bit questionable though and later in the book, talks about another teenager’s problems vividly. What happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?
“I almost laughed out loud, almost told her that yes, I had a problem: I had fucking testicles instead of ovaries, and when was she going to do something about it?”
Now it was really great to see Kristin’s dad being supportive, searching for groups and doing research online. It was quite graphic in the anatomical and medical areas but it also dealt with the topic really sensitively, and definitely portrayed an intersex diagnosis realistically.
Psychologically, Kristin dealt with it in the best way she could – with absolute shock and confusion for what that means about her gender identity. She slowly explored what being an intersex person meant – identifying what it means to be female and finding out that she’s not transsexual (which is when you’re in the body of the opposite gender which you identify with).
“Screw that gender essentialism bullshit. Men have as much of a right to care about clothes as women. Girls can like sports and cars and guns too. So why does it even matter if you identify as a girl, a boy, or as neither?”
The bullying in this book really broke my heart. People were afraid of what they didn’t know, and they conveniently fell back on stigma to try and come to terms with it. Every single person who Kristin knew at school was completely and utterly mean. They called her names, they bullied her, they posted mean photos of her on Facebook and they doled out hate. It was terrible. Even worse was Kristin’s ‘best friends’ who isolated her in her time of need, and her boyfriend who pretty much broke up with her and publicly humiliated her after finding out about her status.
Throughout all of this, Kristin managed to stay strong in the best way you could. Now imagine someone telling you the most life shattering news, that all of your hopes and dreams would fade away with a single diagnosis. With all that considering, she did a pretty good job and dealt with it in a realistic and enviable manner.
None of the Above is an incredibly diverse book that opened my eyes to the intersex population and what it meant to be one. It showed how cruel people could be when they didn’t understand, but that you also need the right support network to help you get through it. While the bullying, isolation and hate in the book was pretty terrible, it does a good job of educating us without prejudice. Definitely a great diverse read.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The author is actually one of the main drivers behind the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and she’s done wonderfully with spreading the word and writing a relatable diverse story.