Sunday, March 1, 2015

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

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 7, 2015
ARC from Edelweiss

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she's 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?

My Thoughts:

It feels like January of 2015 alone has introduced me to some extremely original, touching and important upcoming YA releases. This originality and bravery to write about topics that are still stigmatized in contemporary society has astounded me and made me proud about the fact that I read YA. It is incredible to witness evolving in the genre and I tip my hat to all of these authors who have taken their time to introduce difficult, yet incredibly important, topics to young readers.

When I came across the synopsis for I.W. Grerogio's debut, None of the Above, I instantly knew that I need to read it. We are introduced to Kristin, a high school senior who at first glance, seems to have it all. She is the homecoming queen with a football star boyfriend and a track scholarship in her backpocket. Her boyfriend Sam adores her and it seems like they are very much in love, as a result of which Kristin thinks that it is time to take their relationship to the next level. But everything does not go as planned and a couple of days after the attempt to lose her virginity, Kristin finds herself from a doctor's office, where a regular check-up turns into a life-changing moment. The doctor tells her that Kristin is intersex, meaning that though she looks like a girl, some of her chromosomes are male.

After her diagnosis, Kristin does not know how to go on. She does not know who she can trust and tries to hide the truth from her friends and Sam. But as the secrecy gets too demanding, Kristin tells about her situation to her friends Vee and Faith and suddenly the whole school knows about her intersexuality.

This book really made me realize, once again, how harsh high school can be and how mean kids are to each other. I went to a small high school where it seemed like being good at school made you cool and never really witnessed any bullying (though there probably was some... I just never saw it myself) as a result of which reading about it, or seeing it on films or television, always feels kind of distant to me. Gregorio writes about bullying in a manner so harrowing and honest that I really started to hate these kids who turned Kristin's life upside down. Some argue that the ones who bully are just as miserable as those who they bully, but seriously, WHY DO TEENAGERS HAVE TO BE SO MEAN TO EACH OTHER? Someone who is just going through their teenage years probably could give me a list of reasons and it is easy for someone who is already past the high school age to question the social structures of high school, but reading these YA books that deal with bullying always does make me feel like life after high school really must be better for some.

I must admit that when I read from the synopsis that this book deals with an intersex character, I was a bit “afraid” that the book would not be able to tap into the complexity of such issue. Issues relating to sexuality are still heavily stigmatized within the contemporary society, and though I have read YA novels about gay characters (some have been great, some not so great), I had never come across a novel about intersex character before and I did not really know what to expect. Luckily, Gregorio approaches the topic honestly, in detail and manages to paint a picture that deals not only with the problems of identity that an intersex diagnosis causes, but also with the medical specificities of such diagnosis. Gregorio herself is actually a surgeon and the story was inspired from her encounter with an intersex patient, which for me, became a fact that really gave credibility to this novel and the way it discusses sexuality and identity. I appreciated the honest, realistic way Gregorio wrote about the issues relating to Kristin's body and the changes that take place in it after the diagnosis, and though I know such description might be a bit much for some readers, I think being faced with such topics is important for young readers and definitely adds some educational value to this novel.

Kristin is extremely likable as a character, and I loved the fact that despite her difficulties, Gregorio does not treat her like a patient or a victim. I feel like in some instances, YA authors writing about characters that have problems related to illness, mental health issues, etc. end up turning their characters into saint-like figures, which instantly makes all the people around them seem like they inhabit varying levels of evilness. Though Gregorio is sympathetic of Kristin throughout the novel, she is not afraid to make her seem human with regular human flaws. And though there are some horrible people in this novel, like the high school bullies, there are also good people present, like the wonderful Darren, a boy who plays an important role within this novel.

What I really liked about None of the Above as well was the fact that though it does include elements of romance, it is not really a teen romance, per se. In essence, None of the Above is more about self-love and accepting yourself as you are, which, in my opinion, is an incredibly important message to give to young readers. I hope this novel gains all the attention it deserves and opens up conversations about intersexuality as a result of which adolescents can become more educated about the subject. Hopefully more YA authors will get inspiration from Kristin's story as a result of which stories like this could become more frequent and available to readers both adolescent and adult.

5 snowflakes


  1. This one is on my TBR for sure. I am so intrigued by this premise. It sounds so different from everything else. I am so happy that you enjoyed it so much.

    1. It definitely was very different from any YA contemporary I had ever read before and fortunately with it the difference of it really worked!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Cynthia! :)

  2. Good to know you liked it! I'm so excited for this book; I even featured it on a Waiting on Wednesday post. Lovely review, Milka. :)

    Julie @ Books and Insomnia

    1. I really hope your excitement pays of and you like it as much as I did! :)
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Julie! :)

  3. Finally, something different from the usual contemporary reads. I don't know what to expect from a book about intersexuality. A part of me is afraid that I might not like this book. But your review tells me that it's really worth the try. Fab review Milka!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Shermaine! I was super sceptical about this book as well because once in a while I come across YA books that sell themselves as focusing on some sort of issue, but then just brush by it and do not treat it with the focus and seriousness it deserves. Fortunately this book really amazed me with the detail and it really shows the author knows what she is writing about!
      You should definitely give me a try - I would be interested to know what you think if you do read it :)

  4. I've so happy you liked this. I can't wait to read it, it's probably my most anticipated read this year.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Jillyn! This one is definitely worth the anticipation and I really hope you get to read it ASAP! :)