“I realized life was a multiple choice test with two answers:
Male or Female.
And I was None of the above”

If you’re a girl who just entered adolescence or a woman who’s well into adulthood, you share a mutual hatred toward one thing. Your periods.
I can literally hear you grunt in agreement right about now.
Have you ever thought what would happen if you never got it? If you never had to go through those horrible mood swings or those agonizing body cramps? Never having to worry about wearing that favorite white dress during “ that time of the month” ? Sounds like heaven right? But Kristen Lattimer would give tooth and nail to go through that every day if she could!

Kristen is the lead protagonist in ‘None of the above’ and is just another happy-go-lucky teenage girl. She is a hurdler, with the perfect boyfriend, excellent grades, full college scholarship and popular friends. She even gets elected homecoming queen. All’s rainbows and sunshine until she discovers she has AIS.

Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) in lay man terms is:
When a mother is pregnant , her child could either develop into a girl or a boy based on their chromosomes “ XX/XY” . Sometimes a fetus with XY chromosome is born with resistance to testosterone * the receptors which recognize it are absent*. The main function of testosterone ( produced from the’ y’ chromosome) is to prevent the female genitalia from developing rather than promoting male ones. The absence of female genitalia allows the male genitalia to form. So when the fetus is insensitive to testosterone, the female gonads and genitalia develop without inhibition and thus giving the child, an outward appearance of a girl!
So you look like a girl but you don’t possess a uterus or ovaries. Instead you have testicles.
This is my understanding of the condition after studying it in detail in med school, but try explaining this to a high school senior and she hears nothing but “ You’re not a girl”.
Adolescence is already a confusing stage in life with so many doubts about self-identity, without having to add gender identity into the mix and Kristen struggles with both. Things get harder when the entire school finds out about her condition ( we all know how quick teens are to judge) and she falls prey to bullying.
All Through the book I felt Kristen’s pain, her loss of hope and her dire need to be loved. She lost everyone and everything. Her boyfriend, her close friends, her track scholarship , all of it. The author made her struggle seem so genuine that you couldn’t help but weep for her.
As a matter of fact, all the characters in this book were very well portrayed.
Kristen’s father, a man who already lost his wife to cervical cancer is put through trying times again with Kristen’s condition and you can see him manage to cope with it, with extensive research on her symptoms and consequences of her condition. He supports her in her decisions, makes her feel loved and accepted for who she is and helps her come to terms with her condition.
“You know I love you too, sweetie. Forever and ever, until the sun fades.”

*Spoiler alert*
There’s a scene where Kristen finds her dad crying in front of the computer looking at an anatomical diagram of an intersex person and she assumes its because he now understands what an abomination she is. Her dad then tells her it’s because she doesn’t have a cervix, that she wont die of cervical cancer like her mother. He’s happy that her condition wont kill her, anything else they’d fight it together! Truly touching.
Darren is another character I absolutely adore. In times where all YA male leads are drop dead gorgeous with the blue eyes, blond hair and ripped body, Darren’s a lanky science geek with messy hair and an addictive smile who also happens to be a long distance runner. He has an impressive wit and a scandalous past that helps him understand what Kristen’s going through.
“If there’s one thing I learned from my dad leaving my mom, it’s that love isn’t a choice. You fall for the person, not their chromosomes.”
If only everyone had his profound understanding. If that isn’t unconditional love, I don’t know what is.

It’s hard to ignore something as fundamental as gender. But the question is: what decides gender? Is it merely your chromosome? That everyone with an XX genotype is a symbol of feminism? Is it the way we dress that factors into it? Our mindsets and thought processes? Do all women even think alike? How do you decide if a child is male or female? By looking at it’s genitalia? Then why isn’t Kristen as much as woman as me? If you noticed, throughout this article I’ve used ‘ she’ as a pronoun for Kristen and that is my tiny way of showing my support to her right to being called a woman!
Why do we treat intersex people like abominations? Maybe it’s because we can’t stuff them inside the box of our limited understanding. Maybe it’s because humans are so used to categorizing things into neat little boxes. “ right or wrong”, “ rich or poor”, “ good or bad”, “male or female”. Anything that doesn’t fall into one of these, disrupts our order and we can’t accept it.
I ask you, if your friend has lactose intolerance would you abandon her? But when said friend is intolerant to androgen you’d run a mile away wouldn’t you? Even though they’re almost the same principle it’s so hard for you to embrace a friend of ambiguous gender. It’s just another medical condition.
People with cancer are treated like royalty because of their condition, what with all the cancer perks and cancer wishes all because they’re dying or suffering to stay alive but when somebody is diagnosed with AIS they are treated with disdain and contempt. Why? I’M not saying that cancer patients don’t deserve preferential treatment, I’m just asking why only them?
You know what? It’s easy to die, to give up and leave. It’s harder to survive in a world where it thinks you don’t belong, to wake up every day to hatred and fight it. ALONE.
Now with Cancer being such a recurrent theme in contemporary YA, * yes, thanks to TFIOS* I.W Gregorio has voiced a story of a different condition but one that deserves to be equally heard.
IT does have it’s flaws, the book ended abruptly without a decisive conclusion and the writing style lacks creativity but all in all it’s a excellent read. Especially for all you teenage kids, read it so you learn to go easy on your friends fighting medical conditions, so you can be one less burden they have to deal with.

Let me know what you thought of it!



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