None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

NoneoftheAbove_Cover None of the Above is a unique contemporary novel. Written by one of the founders of We Need Diverse Books, I. W. Gregorio, it follows the story of homecoming queen Kristin Lattimer in the weeks after she's diagnosed with androgen insensitivity syndrome. After a friend's betrayal causes her diagnosis to be leaked to the whole school, she must come to terms with her own identity while dealing with the reactions of her peers.

The result is an incredibly detailed and well-informed novel about issues that are rarely discussed anywhere, let alone in young adult fiction. Gregorio uses her medical background to great effect, discussing not just the science of intersex,  but also issues of discrimination, questions of gender identity, and even the details of gynaecological exams. I'm sure that anyone who reads this book will learn a lot, and have questions ponder, and the novel's unflinching look at "taboo" medical issues is desperately needed.

That said, None of the Above is very much an "issues" book. Kristin's medical diagnosis is the entirety of the plot, and the novel itself has a very medical perspective in general. I often felt like certain conversations or scenes were purely to inform us about the science of being intersex, rather than being a natural part of the story. The explanation and exploration of intersex came first, the characters and story came second.

I also worry about how the book handles Kristin's friends, and their reactions to her diagnosis. All of her friends are horrified and basically abandon her, although of course they come around in the end for a happy conclusion. Kristin's boyfriend is horrific to her. Her whole school ostracizes her, while others berate her for being too melodramatic when that upsets her. She has to make new friends to find people who accept her, except of course that everything ties up with an "it was all fine in the end" perfect bow in the book's final pages. To me, it lacked nuance, and again made it feel more about the "issues" than about real-feeling people.

In the end, the book is clinical, not character driven. I could see this book being used as part of a curriculum to discuss intersex issues, but not as a novel that a lot of people would read in its own right. And perhaps that's okay. This is the first YA novel like this I've ever come across, and it has to start from the assumption that its readers know nothing about the topic at hand. If its goal is to inform, then it does so very well, and I'm certain that it will be an enlightening read for anyone who picks it up.

If you want to learn more about intersex or gender issues in a non-textbook way, then None of the Above is worth picking up. It's not a casual read by any stretch of the imagination, but it's informative and refreshingly feminist, and it's definitely worth a look.