HomeReviewReview: None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

None of the AboveThis book was a personal purchase.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“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?”

Holy cow… this book is a rollercoaster of ALL THE FEELS.  It’s not a tearjerker, so not those kinds of FEELS.  But you will go through a ton of emotions reading this book.  You’re going to agonize along with the main character, Kristin, as she struggles to come to grips with her diagnosis and its repercussions, as well as cheering on the triumphs that she experiences.

Gregorio talks about her research process a little bit in the afterword, and the amount of time and energy–and love–she put into this novel is plain to see.  This novel was apparently inspired by a young intersex girl that she met many years ago, and her intense longing to help that long-ago child comes through in her portrayal of Kristin.

Having known people from all walks of life gender-wise myself, I think I really tapped into the horror of society’s treatment of those who are different.  While I have luckily never witnessed such bullying myself, the thought of anybody hurting friends of mine makes me livid.  The type of bullying portrayed here runs the gamut, from the much more common snide comments and cyber attacks via Facebook to actual physical assault.  I was cringing at the worst of the scenes with people turning against Kristin, and it was realistic enough for me to find it very upsetting.

But the author also shows those who are in Kristin’s corner, like the support group she finds online and the doctors who do everything in their power to help her.  We even have sympathy for those who start out unsure but end up being supportive, like Kristin’s dad.  We are reminded that just because you start out shocked by something, you can still come around and be forgiven for your earlier reaction.

No details are skimped on here: the types of surgeries and their pros and cons; taking hormones for the rest of your life; the physical differences of different kinds of intersex people; and the emotional impact of diagnosis.  This book is meant not only to tell a good story, but to open people’s eyes to the fact that some people are different, but that it’s nothing to be scared of.

For me, this book is a success not only because I learned something, but because I got so involved in what was happening to Kristin.  I read this book in a single day, barely putting it down until it was done.  It didn’t beat me about the head with its message, but neither did it let me escape without some thought-provoking ideas in my mind.  Thoughts about gender identity, thoughts about societal norms, and thoughts about prejudice all come part and parcel with this book.

This book may make you uncomfortable.  It may fascinate you.  It may horrify you.  But I think it can’t help but make you empathize with Kristin and what she faces.  I need to go back through this book and pull out some of its best quotes, because Gregorio has done an excellent job with this novel.  I hope this novel gets the wide recognition that it deserves, because it is incredible.

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