From my RR comments: This was such a frustrating read. The plot was really creative, and the setting was very well laid out. I was really curious about...moreFrom my RR comments: This was such a frustrating read. The plot was really creative, and the setting was very well laid out. I was really curious about the characters, but there did not seem to be any point to them representing a third gender. The writing was awful. It was a very hard book to read, and one I had to struggle to finish, but I kept hoping there would be some greater significance to the gender issues.(less)
From its deliberately provocative title, to its unusual narrative style, to its heavy layering of religious themes, to its reliance upon deception and...moreFrom its deliberately provocative title, to its unusual narrative style, to its heavy layering of religious themes, to its reliance upon deception and coincidence, this was a book I was prepared not to like. The term hermaphrodite itself seemed like a slap in the face, especially since any hope of finding a mythological theme to serve as a justification for the term was erased the moment Jamie’s boyfriend invited her study the Bible with him.
The problem was, by that point I had already fallen in love with Jamie, and I wanted to see her safely through the story. I felt the need to protect her, to embrace her, and to support her through to the end. Sure, she’s a little too perfect, a little too innocent for a college student experiencing her first taste of freedom, but she absolutely compels the reader’s sympathy. And, as jarring as her narrative leaps between genders can be, they create a fairy-tale kind of magic that is undeniably attractive.
So, I persevered for Jamie’s sake, continuing to follow her on this difficult journey to womanhood. I can’t say that I ever became comfortable with the religious themes, but I did come to appreciate them in a way I had not expected. As we progress through the story, we learn that it’s the love of family that is holding Jamie back, and the love of the Church that empowers her to move forward. Without the spiritual acceptance of those around her, and her involvement with the Church orphanage, Jamie would likely never have found the courage to claim the gender that was rightfully hers all along.
What bothered me instead was how so many friends and family seemed to take it upon themselves to force their help upon Jamie, often in rather deceptive ways. It can be argued that the end justifies the means, but in a book that has such a spiritual core, those deceptions are even more pronounced. Jamie may not be manipulated in the way that we expect, or by whom we expect, but the manipulation is still there, and still makes your skin crawl when you really think about it.
On a positive note, the book does a fantastic job of detailing the variety of intersex conditions, the challenges they represent, and the different ways in which people come to deal with their situations. I was delighted by how much I learned from the story, enough that I was willing to forgive the idea that so many intersex individuals might so naturally converge on one small college town.
In the end, this is a rather nostalgic read, full of old-fashioned values and progressive ideals. The writing is strong, the characters are likeable, and you cannot escape becoming emotionally attached to Jamie. Despite the details that bothered me, I quite enjoyed the read, and was rather delighted by the way in which everything came together in the end.
Allison Moon's Lunatic Fringe is a truly wonderful read, the kind of story that manages to simultaneously by clever, sexy, frightening, and engaging....moreAllison Moon's Lunatic Fringe is a truly wonderful read, the kind of story that manages to simultaneously by clever, sexy, frightening, and engaging. It's one of those books where you're never quite sure what to expect, but are never disappointed by the surprises on the next page.
The story takes quite a while to really settle into the core storyline, but Allison establishes the world so carefully, and builds up the characters so beautifully, you don't begrudge the long introduction. I tend to have a hard time with names (both in person and on the page), but these characters immediately stuck in my head. I found myself subconsciously dividing them into friends, allies, and adversaries (something I don't normally do unless I'm really engaged) and categorizing them according to likability. With a cast of characters as well-balanced as they are well-rounded, picking sides makes for a really fun read.
Before we get into the characters, though, we are exposed to a healthy dose of social politics. The early chapters have a very 'college' feel to them, with a lot of ideas tossed around, but it's done very well. Allison manages to make an otherwise polarizing subject exciting by intimately tying the issues of sexual identity and gender equality to the characters, giving the politics both a face and a personality. There is even a genderqueer member of the Pack who, as I'm sure will come as no surprise, easily crept into my heart alongside our stunning heroine, Lexie.
There's so much I want to say about this, so many key scenes and snippets of dialogue that I'm dying to share, but it really is the discoveries that make the story. Allison manages to merge the threads of social politics, lesbian romance, werewolf adventure, and college drama into a story that takes hold and never lets go. A story that's both fun and thoughtful at the same time is a rarity in and of itself, but one that's also beautifully written, with such a deft command of narrative and dialogue, is a gem that must be shared.(less)