Gregorio, I.W. 2015. None of the Above. New York: Balzer + Bray.
Kristin just turned 18 and her life is going pretty great so far. She has two wonderful best friends and a gorgeous and loving boyfriend, does well in school and athletics, and was just crowned Homecoming Queen. After the dance, she and her boyfriend decide to “go all the way” for the first time because they love each other and they’re ready.
But something goes wrong. It hurts—excruciatingly—and doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. They decide to relax and try again another day, but when it hurts to pee the next day, Kristin decides to visit a gynecologist for the first time. At her appointment, she learns that she doesn’t have a uterus and has undescended testes instead of ovaries. She has a genetic syndrome called AIS, or androgen insensitivity syndrome, one of the varieties of intersex.
Kristin is understandably shocked. She was never worried about her missing period because she assumed it was because she’s an athlete. But now she has “male parts” and is scared of what that might mean. She’s worried that being intersex means she’s gay, because she likes guys, or transgender, because her gender doesn’t match her sex. Luckily, she has a great doctor who reassures her that she’s still a girl and tells her about an AIS support group.
Unfortunately, her peers are not so kind. After Kristin confides in her best friends, one of them gossips and the news is quickly spread throughout the school. For the rest of the story, Kristin deals with bullying and depression before her resiliency motivates her to make new friends and accept herself.
None of the Above is an important book. The details of Kristin’s diagnosis are accurate, non-mysterious, and accessible. Kristin’s reaction is believable and her thoughts and actions are very appropriate to the character. Readers with or without intersex will easily be able to empathize with her. Although her doctor appointments involve a lot of factual information, the scenes don’t seem didactic or forced. This book will be very helpful for young adults to learn about AIS without being bored; most of the plot revolves around social relationships.
I.W. Gregorio is a surgeon who has worked with AIS patients, and is also a founding member of We Need Diverse Books. She has clearly done a lot of research, and her sympathetic bedside manner is quite apparent. There is a very good recommended reading section at the end of the book, and she also has a great resource list on her website.
Content notes: Sexual activity is sensitively portrayed and non-graphic. Bullying includes verbal and social harassment, with hurtful slurs that may be triggering to some readers. There is one scene of physical violence, but Kristin fights back and bests her attacker.