Author: I.W. Gregorio
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 7th, 2015
Page #: 352 (233 in my digital ARC)
Acquisition: ARC from Edelweiss
Goodreads, Author's Website
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book for review from Edelweiss on 1/23/15. The book was published on 4/7/15. Because of this, some of the scenes I addressed/ quotes I use may not appear in the final copy. Please keep this in mind when reading my review.
This book was a mix for me: a good topic and ideas with an execution that I wasn’t entirely happy with. An interesting main character with a lot of potential, but a lot of jumping around and a failure to live up to that potential. Genuine research into the lives of people with AIS, but some rude comments that I couldn’t overlook.
The best part of the book was how Krissy’s navigation of her newly-discovered intersex identity was sympathetic and well-researched. I don’t have AIS, so obviously you should take the word of a person with AIS over mine about how this identity is portrayed, but it sounds like Gregorio took the time to speak to people with AIS/ identify as intersex to write a better story. I can respect that, as can I her decision to write a character with AIS in the first place; it’s an identity that so few people understand and I applaud Gregorio for taking that step and making an effort to make her writing more inclusive.
My main issue was that the book felt like it was being pulled in multiple directions, like Gregorio stuffed all of the issues an intersex person could face into the book at once. The result is a jumble of plot lines that never really reach a climax nor have a satisfying conclusion. This includes: bullying/ transphobia/ intersexphobia, the right to compete in sports, health concerns/ the decision to have medical procedures, sexual identity/ queer identities, sexual activity, sexual assault, cyberbullying, etc. These are all important themes, but a lot of Krissy’s feelings and reactions to these events felt pushed under the rug or conveniently forgotten so we could move onto the next problem. What this book needed was more time, and a lot more pages, to get a chance to resolve things as they need to be or at least address them more than once and for more than one chapter.
I couldn’t get myself to connect to any of the characters, and I feel like the only characters that we got to see really fleshed out were Krissy, her father, and her (dead) mother. The rest of the characters either felt flat or like Gregorio wanted to write about them but never got around to it. For example, Krissy was a “big” (kind of like a student mentor) to a girl on the track team, so you’d think that fleshing out their relationship would make sense seeing as Gregorio tried to make a plot line out of Krissy possibly not being able to compete in sports because of her intersex identity. In actuality, we only see the girl twice.
Another issue I took with the book were some comments made about Castor Semenya, who is frequently referenced in the book because she is also intersex and a runner/ athlete like Krissy. Unfortunately, not all of these mentions are positive:
“[Krissy’s dad] clicked through to another article and there was a close-up of a runner. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman.” (pg. 102)
This isn’t okay. Calling a person an “it” is completely unacceptable and especially when that person is a real human being. Castor isn’t a fictional character that Gregorio made up, she’s a real person who’s been dehumanized because of the identity that Gregorio is (supposedly) trying to fight the dehumanization of. Krissy’s distaste for Caster is never really touched upon, or resolved, but is apparently justified because she’s a “real” woman:
“I don't look like Caster. I look like a woman. I am a woman.” (pg. 106)
I agree that Krissy’s insecurity about her own identity as a woman needed to be addressed within the book, but Caster Semenya is a woman because she says she is and that’s that. Again, I don’t identify as intersex, so I’d like to hear what a person who identifies as such thinks about this, but these lines definitely spoiled some of the book for me.
Overall, the book felt unfinished. The digital ARC that I had been sent was only 233 pages while Goodreads says the final book will be 352. Maybe that’s just how the pages are split up from one format to another, or maybe Gregorio went back and wrote in more scenes to fill in some of the patchiness and confusion, or to flesh out more events/ characters to make them feel less rushed. I sincerely hope it’s the second, and will gladly take another look and write a new review if that’s the case.