I liked this, but found my attention wandering now and again. 3 stars represents both my enjoyment and my wandering attention, as well as I'd read theI liked this, but found my attention wandering now and again. 3 stars represents both my enjoyment and my wandering attention, as well as I'd read the first 35% before, and had so much trouble remembering it that I went ahead and read it again.
But I plan on listening to the podcast Phoebe does with Jessica Williams. ...more
The New Normal had a strange rhythm to it. Plot developments I expected to be explored never were.
For instance, Tamar gives her late sister's guitarThe New Normal had a strange rhythm to it. Plot developments I expected to be explored never were.
For instance, Tamar gives her late sister's guitar to a drug dealer to pay off a debt her sisters -- they were twins and died together -- has incurred. (view spoiler)[For the whole book, I was expecting her parents to confront her about the guitar's disappearance. Never happened. (hide spoiler)]
What I did like is that I'd never read a book before with a heroine who had to deal with hair loss. That's a new story for me. And a girl in high school? Whew. But it turned out to be, like much of the story, not explored as much as I would expect or watch.
Tamar's parents also seemed quote real to me. Her love interest and that story was told in a really low key way, and I sorta loved that. Here is a guy who is her best friend, accepts her who she is, and they make sense together.
I suppose I'd just have to say that the muted quality of the book lead my reaction to be a little muted as well....more
These sorts of stories are important right now to help people understand the issue better so that the kids are less likely to suffer, not just in theiThese sorts of stories are important right now to help people understand the issue better so that the kids are less likely to suffer, not just in their own households but in the greater community. That said. for a child that we're told is so vocal about who he is, the book had very little of his actual voice. I think the adult Whittingtons are very strong and loving in standing up for their children, but I felt mom had so much of a voice, and the rest of the family so little, and at moments the tone seemed somewhat self-c0ngratulatory.
I don't have children, which I joke makes me an expert on how other people should raise theirs. This really is a joke. I realize I'm not in the trenches. But I must confess the Whittingtons were from a more conservative background than it's easy for me to understand. Ryland liked a pair of Star Wars underwear, and the family -- extended family included -- took this crazy hard. I mean, when they understood Ry was trans they were all in, which confuses me if Darth Vader briefs sent everyone into a panic, but much of the book is about the parents not just insisting Ry wear girls' clothes, but the most stereotypical, complete with bows in his hair, version of it. That might have even been a tough one for a child who identified as a girl.
But in the end, they're strong and loving parents who made the decision to be vocal advocates for their son and others like him, which I admire so much. ...more
"All I ever wanted was to be perfect. That sounds like a pretty big ask, but “perfect” means bland, inoffensive, likeable. I wanted other things too."All I ever wanted was to be perfect. That sounds like a pretty big ask, but “perfect” means bland, inoffensive, likeable. I wanted other things too. I did want to stand out, be smart, be nice, but I tried so hard for those things that it wasn’t really like I was asking anyone for them. Really what I wanted was to be something more than the sum of my male and female parts."
I appreciated this was a new story for me -- a story featuring an intersex character. However, my frustrations significantly marred the experience.
Before I get to my gripes: As is almost always the case, I'm glad I read this book. It furthered my understanding of being intersex and expanded upon knowledge I'd gained reading about trans issues. A lot of kids are born outside of the perceived norm, with ambiguous or otherwise "unusual" genitalia, and yet most people are so ignorant of this. If we all knew more, it might change the conversation when we talk about what makes someone male or female. God or nature doesn't always fashion a baby to be one or the other, body development and brain development are separate, and so how can a bar stool philosopher opine that the matter is clear cut?
Max is intersex. He is both male and female. I use the male pronouns because he and everyone else does. He is sexually assaulted early on, with the rapist using his female anatomy. The book is about the emotional and physical repercussions of this, as well as what it does to Max's perception of himself and his family.
The book employs multiple POVs, most felt unneeded. Also, since I felt such antipathy for Max's mother, even with her mental processes, I'd say her POV was unwanted, and really lowered my enjoyment. I believe the author, admirably, wanted Karen -- the mother -- to be sympathetic, but I just could not arrive at a place where she didn't make me grit my teeth.
One of the POVs is the doctor Max meets when he goes to get help after the assault. Being England, Max's clinic trip had a lot less red tape than had the book been set in America. All the medical aspects throughout the book followed suit. The problem with the doctor is she seemed to exist to explain the intersex aspect and to brush right up against betraying confidentiality when the failings, sometimes passivity, of the characters left the story at a crossroads. The doctor never felt natural.
Another POV was a potential love interest. No real complaints there, except the general sense that most of the voices were similar.
Yet another POV was Max's younger brother, Daniel. This kid was something else, mostly in a good way. While he would be trying to live with, he was also bright and funny in a book that needed a little humor now and again.
“Poltergeists are real,” he mumbles from behind my hand. “No they’re not.” I frown at him. “And neither’s Santa.” “Ouch,” he says, and half-laughs, even though this is totally inappropriate because it’s disrespectful to the memory of Santa, who was real when we believed in him.
Ultimately, I spent the whole novel frustrated because the parents could see their kid was in distress and did nothing concrete to alleviate it. Their POVs were filled with thoughts of love, about how you'd do anything for your kid, but no one worked to build rapport, create a situation conducive to Max laying down some of his burden. When Max does make the first tentative steps to reach out, the mother instantly burns any bridge to communication, making wildly ignorant assumptions, and further traumatizing a child in pain. Any question she asks is then in the context of shame, judgement, and antagonism.
Max is established early on as a sweet and accommodating kid. Eventually, some of this is attributed to seeing from an early age the consequences of stressing out his mother. Which means he is prone to masking his pain, keeping secret his plight. And so with neither parent seeking to do more than handle the practical stuff, leaving the emotional and psychological dimension largely unquestioned, I pretty much just wanted to scream. Again, the doctor had to just about betray confidentiality to get Karen to give a second thought to her assumptions. And Karen is allegedly a successful attorney.
So, this is how I ended up at 3 stars and wanting to yell at some fictional characters. ...more