None of the Above
by I.W. Gregorio
Expected Publication Date: April 28, 2014
Length: 352 pages
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
Middlesex meets Mean Girls in this one-of-a-kind YA debut.
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.
Wow, I had hopes for None of the Above and the book totally took my expectations and ran with them. None of the Above navigated the line between telling a good story and being educational with ease. At the beginning of the book, readers are introduced to Kristin–track star, Homecoming Queen, friendly and popular. She already has a scholarship to a school for the next year, a strong group of friends, and a caring boyfriend. Things take a turn, however, when Kristin and her boyfriend Sam decide to take the next step in their physical relationship–and it’s bad and painful for Kristin. She decides to make a doctor’s appointment as a precaution. She’s expecting she might get a bit of bad news, but she’s not expecting to be told she’s intersex. In Kristin’s case, she has a particular condition in which she has XY chromosomes, some male organs, and lacks a uterus. Suddenly, everything seems to have changed.
From there the story is a whirlwind of Kristin figuring out what this means for her, research into her condition and others like it, and trying to figure out how to tell those around her. Unfortunately, that last aspect is taken out of her hands and soon her diagnosis has spread to the entire school. Her boyfriend breaks up with her, she loses a friend, her locker gets trashed, and some particularly mean-spirited students start cyber-bullying her. She’s temporarily suspended from the track team, and soon she fears losing her scholarships.
The strength of None of the Above is how Kristin is forced to examine her life and truly think about what in her life has changed because of her diagnosis–and what is exactly the same. Kristin starts to come to terms with her self and realize that she’s still the same person she was before she knew any of this, even if the people around her perceive her differently. It’s tough and sometimes people are cruel, but Kristin realizes she can’t hold herself responsible for how other people react.
And y’all, some of the things that Kristin goes through are downright heartbreaking. People can be cruel, and None of the Above isn’t idealistic in how it treats the portrayal of those who bully and intimidate Kristin. When her classmates find out about her diagnosis, the reactions range from casually accepting to hesitantly tolerant to thinly veiled disgust to mean-spirited comments to outright bullying. The spectrum of how the characters in the book reacted felt incredibly realistic even when it was tough to swallow. At one point Kristin is the victim of an attempted hate crime and the way it was written and Kristin’s reaction to it put me in the story like few other books have in a very terrifying manner.
What made me root for Kristin, however, is how she began to build her life back together. She regains some friends(and loses others for the betterment of everyone), comes to terms with herself, finds herself learning to move on from her ex-boyfriend, and figuring out how to live with her new information. It’s a nice balance of Kristin learning that really she’s the same–her personality, her characteristics, her interests–but that doesn’t mean her life has stayed stagnant. There’s an incredible layer of growth there, especially since Kristin is so confused and scared of her diagnosis at first.
None of the Above reads as super informative and educational without ever giving off the impression of trying too hard. I had a vague idea of what intersex meant, but I didn’t realize the variety of how people could be intersex or what it might mean. Before reading I had trouble with the idea that Kristin could be seventeen and not know this about herself already–it seemed the kind of thing that would have been found in a physical or blood test prior to the age of seventeen–but after reading it totally made sense and I learned that some intersex people don’t find out until even later in life. None of the Above was super educational in this manner, but it didn’t read as a PSA–it still read as a story, which for me is the mark of a great contemporary book.
None of the Above is a book I believe will be talked about a LOT in the coming months, and it’s absolutely deserved. While it lacked the final OOMPH I need to give a book five stars, there really are no faults and I think Kristin’s story will resonate with a lot of readers.
None of the Above was a great read that took obvious care with the story and the main character, Kristin. I really loved the inside look into Kristin’s journey. She felt so real and seemed very much like a real person. And while the book was very educational, it never seemed to be pressing information at the expense of the story. That’s a hard balance to strike. 4.5 stars.