Book Review: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
In I. W. Gregorio’s None of the Above, things are going pretty well for 18-year-old Krissy. She’s headed to State on a sports scholarship, has been dating Sam for 5 months, and always has her lifelong two best friends, Vee and Faith, by her side. We’re introduced to her on the morning of Homecoming. That night, she and Sam are voted Queen and King. It’s hard to tell who’s more surprised, Krissy, who never considered she would win or Vee, who assumed she would win.
After leaving the dance, Krissy and Sam get their limo driver to park them somewhere secluded. They try to have sex for the first time. Try. Krissy is in agony. They try a little more, but there’s just no way it’s going to happen. Later, while talking to Vee about it—and leaving out all the details about the pain and the repeated attempts—they discuss Krissy going to see an ob-gyn, just to be safe. She isn’t worried she’s somehow pregnant, but is worried about HPV. Her mother died of cervical cancer and Krissy knows the vaccine isn’t foolproof.
Her appointment at the doctor reveals that she believes Krissy has androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), an intersex condition. Krissy has no uterus, has never gotten her period (which she’s always chalked up to her intense running), has a very short vagina, no cervix, and two small hernias that house testicles. That’s a lot to process. Further tests confirm her doctor’s diagnosis. Krissy doesn’t know what to make of this. While explaining it, her doctor says that she is what some people call a hermaphrodite, which she goes on to say is an antiquated term. Krissy is reeling from her new diagnosis. So is her father. Krissy doesn’t know if this means she’s really a girl still, if this changes everything, if a surgery and some medical interventions will help her feel right again. It is, undoubtedly, a lot to process. And that’s what this whole book is about—processing this news.
Krissy’s dad, though thrown for a loop, is supportive and spends hours researching. He finds a support group for her, which puts her in touch with other young women with AIS. She doesn’t know how, or what, she will tell Sam or her friends. At a party she confesses everything to Vee (and a drunken Faith who doesn’t register any of it). It doesn’t take long before the whole school knows. And, as you might expect, people are horrible to her. She’s called names, her locker is vandalized, she’s vilified on social media, and Sam is disgusted. He won’t talk to her. He hurls insults at her. It’s just too much. The guidance counselor eventually helps her get set up for homebound learning for a while. But it’s not all terrible. As Krissy works to figure out what this means for her life, she makes some new friends, including school friends who were mostly just casual acquaintances until now. She struggles with figuring out what life holds for her now, but she is loved, she is supported, and she is hopeful.
Gregorio, a surgeon in addition to being a writer, has filled the book with lots of medical info about AIS, explaining it is just one of many intersex conditions. Everything that Krissy learns about causes, surgeries, hormones, vaginal dilators, support groups, and more we also learn. The reactions of her friends, family, coach, and classmates are varied—there’s plenty of support to temper the awful things people are saying and doing to her. Overall, I found this to be a sensitive and very thorough look at the life of one intersex teen. Krissy asks a lot of questions and either finds the answers through her research or comes around to answers on her own.
Gregorio’s author’s note emphasizes that there is no one intersex story. She discusses her choice to use the word “hermaphrodite,” too. She offers lists of websites, fiction with intersex characters, and articles for further reading. This is an essential purchase for all libraries. Gregorio’s book is a very welcome addition to the small field of books depicting intersex teens.
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read it already or read it soon. Find me on Twitter @CiteSomething.
For other intersex experiences see:
Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall
Pantomime by Laura Lam
Shadowplay by Laura Lam
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
REVIEW COPY COURTESY OF EDELWEISS
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 4/7/2015
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network