While None of the Above is not the best YA contemporary I have ever read, I am genuinely glad that I took the time to read this book. It was such an authentic, realistic and informative book that I couldn’t help but finish it and feel as though I had had a really important reading experience.
I feel like unlike a lot of readers, I did already know the basics about what it meant to be ‘intersex’ before reading this book, but when I say I know the basics, that is the extent of what I mean. I was not at all an expert about what it means to be intersex. None of the Above not only helped clarify to me what being intersex really means, but it also gave me what I perceived to be a realistic portrayal of a teenage girl learning that she has a disorder of sex development, and what that means regarding her gender.
Kristen finds out she is intersex shortly after being crowned her high school’s homecoming queen. And just like you can expect she completely wigged out, which is something I can imagine anyone in her shoes would do. Kristen used humour frequently as a dealing mechanism, and as much as she was upset about her diagnosis at first, she always kept a brave face in front of her dad and never let him know how badly she was struggling with coming to terms with it.
Kristen and her father’s relationship was one of my favourite factors of this story. There weren’t many relationships in this story I found myself loving. I did not enjoy reading about any of Kristen’s friends and boyfriends. They were the main reason I found this book less than perfect. Characters are what keep a story alive and interesting for me, however apart from Kristen and her father, I had a real tough time connecting with any of the side characters in this novel.
I love walking away from a book and knowing I have learned more about the world. But what I found so raw, realistic and depressive about this story was that I saw a side of teenagers in literature that I haven’t seen in a long time. I have witnessed bullying in books, but the extent of the bullying that Kristen experienced for being intersex felt so true to what I imagine would happen in high school. And it makes me incredibly uncomfortable that today’s generation still isn’t accepting as a lot of us envision it. As the internet generation, I think we are able to find so many supportive corners of the internet that fully accept LGBTQIA+ community that it’s hard to remember that people still view these things as wrong or disgusting. It was tough reading about such an unsupportive community throughout this book.
Besides the few issues I had with this book, I found the dialogue and general themes in this book true to what high school is really like. I feel like it is a book that students would really benefit from reading in school, both for the medical and friendship themes, and wouldn’t hesitate before recommending it as required reading.