What’s it all about?:
Max Walker: blue-eyed boy or girl next door?
To the outside world, Max Walker is a golden boy: a loving son and brother, the perfect student, captain of the football team and every girl’s dream boyfriend.
But Max was born intersex – neither fully boy nor fully girl. Now something terrible has happened to him, the consequences of which have left him questioning his true identity.
Can the people around him – his girlfriend, his classmates, his ambitious parents – accept him for who he is? Or will Max’s secret life tear his world apart?
What did I think?:
This is another one of those books recommended to me by my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads that I knew I had to read quickly as she so desperately wanted to talk to me about it. Ah, a definite contender for Chrissi Cupboard Month I thought so on it went onto the December read list. I am so so glad I finally read it, I can’t find words enough to describe how stunning it is and I truly believe that the author, Abigail Tarttelin is destined for great things in the literary world.
The Golden Boy of this book is teenager Max Walker who seems to have everything going for him. He’s popular at school with both sexes, is brilliant academically, gifted at sports and is a loving son and big brother. Surely there has to be a problem somewhere? Well, yes there is. Max Walker was born inter-sex (previously known as hermaphrodite) meaning that he has both male and female sexual organs. Unfortunately he is at that age where differences matter, even slight ones and so far his parents have both buried their heads in the sands, not really acknowledging or recognising that it is that much of a problem.
Then something horrific happens to Max which changes his life forever. The event which happens and its consequences means that Max’s loved ones and especially Max himself must learn a hell of a lot more about how he is affected, both physically and psychologically. This requires them to pull together as a family to help Max in his time of need and may test their relationship both with their son and between themselves. Meanwhile Max’s friends must decide whether they can accept him for the person he still is disregarding his genetics or outward physical appearance.
And wow, I honestly can’t stress enough how important I think this book is. In some ways, I feel it should be some kind of required reading for adolescents to teach them how crucial it is not to judge people and how to love someone from the inside out rather than vice versa. We hear Max’s story through a number of different voices the first being his parents, who are having their own difficulties in coming to terms with their child’s situation in very different ways. His father is running for political office and doesn’t need any family dramas or secrets to bubble to the surface whilst in the public eye. Max’s mother on the other hand I think is a bit more naive and slightly ignorant and just wants to wrap a protective bubble around her son to keep the big bad world out. Yes, two people that definitely need a bit of a shake in my opinion!
Some other favourite characters of mine are Max’s little brother Daniel who isn’t fully aware of what is going on but has an idea that his brother is a bit “different.” It felt to me like he was on the mild side of the autism spectrum and was so delightful to read that I instantly fell in love with him and his little quirks. Sylvie is the love interest of the novel and is a great friend to Max when his world starts to fall apart. I loved reading about her reaction when she finds out that he is inter-sex, it’s honest, pure and greatly admirable. Lastly there’s Archie, Max’s GP who he goes to for help in his darkest moment and who admits right from the start that she doesn’t have a lot of experience in this area but is willing to learn more and fight for his rights and mental well-being.
Aside from the fabulous characters this novel had a sterling plot that twisted, turned and kept me guessing throughout. At times, it’s brutally honest and fairly graphic but at all times it was also surprisingly sensitive and educational rather then resting on the “shock factor.” On starting it, I have to admit myself that I didn’t know a whole lot about inter-sex individuals but I finished it feeling grateful that I had learned so much. If you haven’t read this book yet, please do so immediately, it’s a story that will have you counting your blessings while breaking your heart. The sky is definitely the limit for Abigail Tarttelin!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):