Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite *Contains Some Spoilers*

Confessions of a Teenage HermaphroditeTitle: Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite
Author: Lianne Simon
Publisher: Faie Miss Press
Published: September 18, 2012
Format: Kindle
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 232  pages
Source: Received from the author
 in exchange for an honest review
Read: January 2-3, 2013
In A Few Words: Interesting take on a difficult subject
My Rating: 3 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
From the heart of an intersex teen, one who must ultimately choose male or female—family or true love—comes the story of a deeply emotional and perilous journey home. This is a young adult novel unlike any other—an authentic portrayal of the issues faced by a child growing up with a sexually ambiguous body.

Jameson can be like other boys after minor surgery and a few years on testosterone Well, at least that’s what his parents always say. But Jamie sees an elfin princess in the mirror, and male hormones would only ruin her pretty face. For him to become the man his parents expect, Jameson must leave behind the hopes and dreams of a little girl. But what is so wrong with Jamie’s dreams that they can’t be her life?

Melissa's Musings:

The topic of a person being intersex is a very difficult one to breach as it is a sensitive topic in general. The author does a good job of discussing intersexuality in a mostly neutral way, although Jamie/Jameson's parents clearly want her to be something she's not, and it's obvious that they have issues with her condition. 

They raised her as a girl until she was 9, then moved, cut her hair and tried to raise Jamie as a boy named Jameson. From what I understand, they were told that it would be easier to raise Jamie as a boy, so that's what they decided to do. Also, they were raising Jamie without any doctor supervision for her condition, which seemed really odd.

I feel like a lot of the background is missing, and should have been structured differently. For one thing, Jamie's parents reactions to situations are really harsh. And you don't know their true feelings about when they first found out about Jamie's condition. I think that explaining those feelings would have set the reader up to better understand why Jamie's parents treat her the way they do. 

You also  find out that Jamie was born with one ovary and one testis. Then about halfway through the book, you find out that these were both removed because Jamie had cancer at one point. It seemed odd to just throw that in there and wasn't necessary to move the story forward.

There are some nice quotes about not being able to change who you are, that I found really positive.

The struggle that Jamie goes through with herself and who she wants to be is significant, and can be confusing at times. It was almost like Jamie had multiple personality disorder. There's Jameson, her boy "self" who she pretends to be for her father. Then there's Jamie, which is who she truly wants to be. Then, there's also her sort of third "personality" if you will, "The Elfin Princess". What made me think of Jamie having MPD is the fact that she talks about compartmentalizing Jameson, taking him apart and putting him away. Then she also talks to The Elfin Princess in the mirror, often. It would have been clearer to just have Jamie describing experiences as Jamie and her experiences as Jameson. The Elfin Princess adds an odd element to the story.

There are also a lot of elements in this book that felt somewhat forced. The first being the blatant Christianity. It isn't brought up in a natural manner, and seems to be thrown into almost all of the significant events, which I found unnecessary and distracting.

There's also the fact that several people are just  "okay" with Jamie being a girl. I don't have a problem with that at all personally, I wish more people would be open-minded like these characters. It's just that structurally it seemed like the author went to the two extremes in this respect. On the one hand, Jamie's parents have such a problem with her condition and who she wants to be, to the point that they control and manipulate her. On the other hand, there are several people who just accept her without so much as a word. There wasn't enough conflict to keep things progressing toward the resolution, so it wasn't as significant as it could have been.

There's also a "secret society" of people from the same university that Jamie attends who all have different gender disorders. While the thought of it was nice because it gave Jamie people to talk to, it's completely unrealistic. The fact that these 4 other girls all just happen to go to the same school and somehow found their way to each other just doesn't seem likely at all.

As a character, Jamie isn't very strong. She's easily influenced and manipulated, so it was somewhat hard to connect with her. She also says "you know" at the end of her sentences a lot, to the point where it is irritating. And these were things that were already stated, or implied, so it almost felt condescending. It was things like, "I'm not a boy, you know,"  "We've only kissed, you know"

Overall, the story itself is in need of a little more setup, but I think that for a subject as difficult to write about as this one can be, the author did a nice job.

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