In this YA contemporary, I. W. Gregorio makes you think about gender norms and what it means to not fit in those. It’s an engaging read, with a strong message.
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?
Kristin’s life is normal but when she finds out she is intersex her entire vision of the world, and of herself, shifts. And just when she thinks it cannot get any worse, the entire school finds out she’s a hermaphrodite. Kristin’s relationship ends and her best friend, who had told her boyfriend, is no longer her best friend. Her life changes from daily running and school, to doctor’s visits, hiding in her bedroom and avoiding the world.
I never like it when a couple is already together at the start of a book, because then I’m completely uninvested in the relationship and all the drama that happens next is not that interesting. So Kristin having broken up with her boyfriend is not something I really cared for, however, luckily this was only a small part of the story.
“Everything changed,” I insisted. “Even though I kept on telling Sam and Vee and all the others that I was the same, everything was different.”
Dr. LaForte shook her head. “The world around you may have shifted, seen you in a different light. But the Mona Lisa is a masterpiece whether it’s in a pitch-black room, under a strobe light, or in the sun.”
What this story is mainly about is that Kristin, who is (no longer) male or female, has to figure out how this influences the image of herself. Intersex means that you have both XY and XX genes, mixed hormones and sometimes female and/or/nor male sex organs, which would make you something in between the standard male and female genders. For Kristin this means, though she is not officially a female, can she still identify as one? What does it mean to be female?
Not only does she has to deal with herself, she also has to deal with the world and their opinion of her. A lot of people see her as some kind of transgender (which is in their eyes perceived as bad), and call her names, whisper behind her back and she is even kicked off her running team.
“Do you ever just wish that you could find the guy who coined the phrase ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ and smash his face in?”
I would have loved this book even more if there wasn’t this focus on romance. Near the end, I felt like the idea that you need a boy to make you feel like a woman, was slightly too present, which decrease the strength of the novel and the message it’s trying to give. It felt like a really simple solution, to give Kristin a love interest, so she would believe in herself again, or something like that. I get it can be important for her, but for me, it felt like a simple story trick to give it a pretty ending.
I am giving this book 4 stars because it’s one of those contemporaries that is just so important for this world. It’s not like anything I’ve ever read, and knowing more about intersex has brought me so much to think about. I hugely enjoyed this book, even though I didn’t like the focus on romance, it was really interesting and opened me up to a whole new topic I’ve never thought about. I will definitely recommend this book to everybody, yeah, basically everybody, unless you hate contemporary maybe.