I actually finished reading ANNABEL yesterday, but I wanted to think about the book. At the end of a long workday, I don't really have the brain power to ponder weighty topics before bed, and this book deals with an intersex (i.e. hermaphrodite) character.
Wayne was born with an ovary, a testicle, a penis, and a uterus. He is a true hermaphrodite, and his state at birth shocks everyone. Because of the length of his penis, he qualifies as being able to be raised as a boy, which is what his father, Treadway, wants. His mother, Jacinta, wants Wayne to grow up intact, but Treadway insists on his way, so Wayne's vagina is sewed up, his penis is lengthened, he is given pills to take, and is labeled as a boy.
But Wayne is not gender typical. He likes to build things and fish, but he also likes to sing and dance, and isn't put off by the idea of wearing makeup or girl clothes. His father doesn't approve and pushes him to be masculine, as though overcompensating for his son's perceived shortcomings. Some reviewers said he was made out to be a villain, but considering that this takes place in rural Canada with trappers and men who participate in the machismo culture that comes with it, I found his father to be surprisingly liberal. Except for one moment of cruelty, which he regretted immediately (and did not involve abuse), Treadway tried really hard to be understanding -- even though it was so clearly obvious that he didn't understand, and never would be able to understand, because Wayne's unique situation was so out of his universe. Which is why, I think, he started trying to run away from his problems: to escape.
There are a lot of triggers in this book. There is a very unpleasant scene during Wayne's entrance to puberty where his abdomen bloats, and we learn that his abdomen is filled with blood that couldn't escape because his vagina was sewed up. Apparently, he got himself pregnant, because he has both parts and they are in such close proximity to one another, and when the doctors removed the blood, they found a fetus lodged in his Fallopian tubes (ew). I kind of wish this scene hadn't been included because not only is it gross, it also has the feel of an urban legend ... and not in a good way.
Another thing that bothered me about ANNABEL is its reliance on stereotypes. For example, in elementary school, Wayne runs into a gay pedophile who likes pretty boys and comes onto him. Wayne is also raped by a group of boys who think he's too pretty, and who have heard about his various sex change operations and want to test the merchandise. These scenes were cringeworthy and even though I understand why the author included them -- because intersex and trans men and women receive far more discrimination than LGB members, and are more likely to be sexually abused (at least according to this thing I read that I can't remember) -- it was still very upsetting and detracted, rather than added, to the storyline for me.
Overall, I liked ANNABEL. I liked the idea of Wayne's shadow self. It reminded me of this nonfiction book I read, which was called THE BOY WHO WAS RAISED AS A GIRL. It features a boy with the opposite problem: a botched circumcision left him with a nub of a penis, and the doctors figured, "Oh, hey, obviously the penis makes the man (which happened in ANNABEL), so let's just raise him as a girl. He'll be fine." But the boy -- he was a boy -- wasn't fine. He didn't like dresses, and he wanted to play with boy toys and do sports. During puberty, he was attracted to girls, not boys, and the conflict between what he felt inside and what his parents and society and his doctors were telling him about his outsides, really fucked him up. He actually ended up committing suicide.
It just goes to show that we can't help how we're born. Whether we're male, female, or somewhere in between, the only one who ought to decide what label, if any, we're provided with is us. Because who knows us better than we know ourselves? I also think that in vague cases, like in this book and the one in TBWWRAAG, parents and doctors ought to wait until puberty, to see what happens when the natural hormones kick in and also to see what the child wants when they are in a position to decide for themselves.
When I fifteen, it was 2005, and people were posting serialized stories on Quizilla. Terrible, unoriginal stories about beautiful emo girls who cut their wrists and wore Converse sneakers with their prom dresses and dirty gray hoodies, and ended up sucked into some paranormal brouhaha where they immediately became the object of lust for every straight male creature for miles.
Francesa Lia Block clearly revels in that type of girl, and has never graduated from writing this kind of protagonist.
Charlotte is an especially annoying character because she's like a female Edward Cullen. She doesn't want to be a vampire. She has a house that looks like a palace, and an entire closet crammed full of designer clothes (which, considering how little she claims to appreciate them, she sure as hell spends a ton of time describing), and a perfect figure (skinny as hell with huge boobs and a great badonkadonk), and spends all her time listening to Goldfrapp, Ladytron, and Portishead.
--but she's not happy.
And why? Because she's not human. She wants to sweat, she wants to have zits, she wants to gush menses and get pregnant. She wants to be a real girl. She wants to have feelings and be in love.
And I'm just like, WUT THE FUCK IS THIS.
Charlotte (not suprisingly) has only one friend, a girl named Emily. Charlotte is friends with Emily because other girls tend to hate her when they find out how much awesome stuff she has, and how much boys enjoy ogling her perfect figure, but Emily doesn't seem to devote all that much thought to Team Envy, for which Charlotte is grateful enough to bestow the gift of friendship.
Emily was raped by one of her mom's boyfriends, and this is supposed to be the explanation for why she randomly commits suicide partway through the book. But while she's alive, Charlotte is jealous of Emily because she has a boyfriend who worships the ground she walks on, and this is what being human is about, too. Also, Emily's boyfriend, Jared, reminds Charlotte of the brother she had incestuous feelings for, and how they used to dance together and swim naked together.
You know, fun, wholesome, sibling activities.
Unfortunately, he died of the fever.
Anyway, after Emily dies, Charlotte immediately tries to put the moves on Jared, who initially tells her to fuck off. She stalks him, and catches him spraying perfume on his dead girlfriend's bra and cuddling up to it while naked. Then he tells her that he knows she was following him, and that he wanted to have sex with her the moment he saw her, and fuck Emily.
And I'm just like, WUT THE FUCK IS THIS.
Charlotte then tells him her story, about how she and the vampire who turned her, William, traveled the world--Hiroshima during the bombing (right afterwards, they have BDSM sex, very sympathetic); New York during 9/11; Woodstock during the Summer of Love; the AIDS scare during the 1980s (she talks about how beautiful the young dying men look, fuck you, Charlotte); Hollywood during the golden age, etc. etc. And is Charlotte careful to describe all her outfits in each of these passages?
OF COURSE SHE IS.
Anyway, William returns and Charlotte starts to turn human again, and oh, whoops, apparently Emily isn't dead, she's a vampire. Because Charlotte wanted to be human again and so William was all like, "Okay, let's trade," and now Emily is like, "Muahahaha I'm taking Jared back now, and oh by the way, I hated you all along bitch!" And Charlotte is like, "NO I LOVE HIM EVEN THOUGH I'VE ONLY KNOWN HIM FOR LIKE TWO WEEKS," and sics the police on them by saying, "OMG! THEY'VE GOT A BOMB!" And then Jared and Charlotte end up tentatively ever after.
And I'm just like, WUT THE FUCK IS THIS.
I have to admit that the idea of a vampire becoming human again is an intriguing idea, but the execution of this book was terrible. Charlotte had no character development. I wasn't convinced that she was anything special--she's like countless other Mary Sues, and we're supposed to identify with her less as a person than as the embodiment of our fantasized "ideal self"--because who doesn't want a closet full of designer clothes they can actually fit and everyone being jealous of you and hot guys throwing themselves at you? And then the fact that Charlotte doesn't want these things is supposed to make her a complicated, better person who transcends materialism in favor of humanity?
I CALL BULLSHIT.
A) Because materialism obviously did matter to her and
B) I hardly consider falling in love with a human selfless, especially since
C) He was her friend's boyfriend and she was barely cold in the grave before she moved in
When my friend found out I was starting a new job she sent me a cute little care package, of which this book was part. I also got some Monster High pens and a pair of crazy cat lady leggings that I absolutely canNOT wait to wear...I just have to figure out which of my dresses will go with them. :)
Anyway, this book. karen, a GR buddy of mine, as the perfect shelf for this book: creepy dolls. A lot of the dolls in this book are very creepy, which begs the question: why give an inspirational book such creepy pictures? Were the editors trying to be ironic? (Because they do give the context a morbid--even sinister--undertone.) Or just creepy-funny?
Before I got my new phone, you would have had to just take my word for it, or buy a copy of your own. But now I have a cell phone with internet(!) so I can exhibit all the evidence you need!
And when love finds you, it will come in the form of a creepy, two-headed doll.
Also, because we fuck birds.
By hollowing out your head and letting birds shit inside you.
I don't even know.
But it was an interesting book, with interesting pictures, and I'm happy to share it with you.