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Friday, May 1, 2015

First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day

None of the Above

by Dave Amaditz and
Marcy Collier

Welcome to May’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.

This month we're pleased to highlight debut novelists, I.W. Gregorio and her novel, None of the Above. Kristin is a senior in high school, homecoming Queen and track star, when she learns something about herself that makes her rethink everything about her she’s ever known. She’s intersex.

1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?

Dave – Kristen has been wondering since her diagnosis who she really is. A daughter, a friend etc. etc. etc. She thinks back on something her track coach told her about hurdlers, as that is the event she participated in during track.

Hurdlers were a breed of their own.

When Coach Auerbach talked about the hurdles, she cautioned us that the event wasn’t for the faint of heart. “Hurdling has the steepest learning curve, and probably the most painful. It’s all about technique, so there’s a ton of practice involved. A lot of hitting your knees and face-planting. They say that hurdlers need three things: speed, flexibility, and courage.”

Within the first days of learning how to hurdle, I knew she was right to warn us. I looked at my sprinter friends and was totally jealous of how easy they seemed to have it. But at the same time, I loved being hard-core. That’s who I was: a hurdler. And hurdlers were never afraid to fall.

Marcy –  Kristin is trying to come to terms with her diagnosis and all of the emotions that come with it. She’s a runner and a hurdler. When she runs, she clears her head and is able to better deal with her problems.

You also tended to overthink less when it was close to freezing outside: Don’t look at a problem from so many angles that you lose sight of the real issue. Don’t worry about how your boyfriend will react  to your being a hermaphrodite, when you might never be ready to tell him what you really are.

2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?

Dave - There were so many great cliffhangers, but I chose this one because the depth of the betrayal from her boyfriend, Sam, and whoever it was that divulged her secret, was so completely devastating I felt I’d experienced it, too.

I collapsed against the lockers, and slid down into a crumple. Above me, people turned to stare as they hurried to class. I couldn’t see their faces through my tears, but I could feel the pounding and shuffling of their feet as they walked past.

The bell rang. The ground went silent. And I began to process how deeply I had been betrayed.

Marcy –  There were some terrific cliffhangers so like Dave, I had a difficult time choosing. Kristin seeing the gynecologist for the first time. When the doctor does her internal, she has a hard time telling Kristin her findings. Finally after she gathers herself, on the third try tells Kristin her discovery.

“Miss Lattimer, I think that you might be what some people  call a hermaphrodite.”

3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Dave – I was torn between two, Dad and Darren, both strong and likable characters. In the end though I settled on Dad because of his inner strength which showed his true love for his daughter. Three lines of dialogue exemplify this, one from early in the novel when Kristen is first diagnosed and visits the doctor, one from later when Dad makes her breakfast like he used to do before her mother died and one from the end when Kristen had accepted her condition.

“What do you mean, you’ll look at her schedule?” My dad said, his voice growing louder. “This is an emergency.”

“Oh, just wanted to do something special for my girl.”

“You know I love you too, sweetie. Forever and ever, until the sun fades.”

Marcy –  Like Dave, I also had a hard time choosing, but decided on Darren because he is both funny and honest. I won’t give details since it will give too much away, but Darren’s offbeat sense of humor comes off nicely in this line:

“It’s not like I did anything but distract him. You delivered the knockout punch.” He let out a puff of a laugh. “Remind me to donate to a sperm bank before I ever pick a fight with you.”

4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?

Dave - This section, this image was so powerful I had to read again and again, each time I appreciated it more.

Most of the magazines were about golf and cars, and all the little brochures by the windowsill advertised Viagra and drugs for people who peed their pants. I stuck out like a sore thumb. One of the other patients, a man with white hair and brows so bushy they almost flopped over his eyes, kept looking up from his magazine in my direction. I wanted to say something to him about how it wasn’t nice to stare, but I knew it would draw more attention, so I tried to focus on the paperwork I was supposed to fill out. On the first line of the very first page it read:

NAME:                   SSN:                       DOB:                              SEX:

I stared at the posters on the walls, which were all colorful diagrams of kidneys and prostrates. Each of them had cross-sections of people cut in half - one male, with the penis sticking out like the mouth on the faucet. One female.

That’s when I realized that life was a multiple-choice test with two answers: male or female. And I was None of the Above.

Marcy – Great minds think alike. As Dave, the line (which is obviously the book title) stood out for me as well.

That’s when I realized that life was a multiple-choice test with two answers: male or female. And I was None of the Above.

5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?

Dave - This particular line of dialogue is spoken from Darren. He has unique perspective on Kristin’s diagnosis since his mother and father were divorced after his dad announced that he was gay.

“When he finally spoke, his voice was quiet but clear as glass. “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.”

Marcy –  Kristin’s coach is a strong supporter of her and their team. Throughout the book, Kristin keeps her team’s mantra in mind and it becomes a reoccurring theme in the novel.

“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

And then of course this line of dialogue made me laugh out loud with the visualization.

“Yeah, I was telling Kristin that my sister thought you danced like a Muppet on crystal meth.”

I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of the Above (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins). She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News and Journal of General Internal Medicine. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

To read more about I.W. Gregorio’s None of the Above debut novel please go to:

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