I had to chuckle at the "nine and four-fifths"! Definitely a scientist in the making, eh? :) No rough estimates for this child!
Steve and Karen, Max and Daniel's parents, are best friends with Hunter's parents. In fact, Hunter's mom Leah and Karen are closer than Karen is to her own sister, Cheryl. Karen relies on Leah and vice versa. At one point Karen thinks to herself:
I know if anything happened to me, Leah would be there for my children, and I would be there, if anything happened to Leah, for her son, Hunter, who, like many children without siblings, can be moody and controlling. I don't share that thought with Leah obviously, because we all like to believe that our children are perfect, and personally, I wouldn't want to be disabused of that notion. (7)
Little did Karen or Leah realize what was in their future, especially regarding their children's relationships. And, being an 'only child' myself, I must take offense at the idea we're all "moody and controlling"! Hmph! ;)
...and it's just me, lying, legs apart, like a dead bug, flattened to the mattress by pain and blinking rapidly with my mouth open. Like I can't believe what just happened happened. Like I don't know where I am. Like I am in some alternate reality where there is a possibility that Hunter is a bad person, my average little bedroom is the scene of a crime, I could be quietly forced into something so abhorrent I can't even think the word in my mind and that it could all be over in five minutes. (21)
Such confusion and inability to take it all in for what it was felt very real to me.
|This is much as I pictured Max...|
Another person who truly helped make Max's life better is Archie. Every doctor should be like Archie! She thinks to herself:
...medical approaches to trans, intersex and asexual people can vary greatly between jurisdictions.
I know that our practice is ahead of most in our approach to these teenagers, but there are some areas where I know I do not know enough and we need improvement. Like most clinics, like the curriculum, like the policy makers, we are struggling to keep up with scientific advancements, and also with our patients. (46)
I venture to say that paragraph is much more than the majority of medical providers would ever think about such issues...ever! Unfortunately, most people, including the majority of healthcare professionals, only consider the possibility of two genders/sexes, when the reality is so much more diverse, with many variations between these two seemingly absolute opposites.
He's oddly despondent, actually. I study him carefully. Something just doesn't fit in this scene, an uncaring mood, a lack of eye contact, blankness. As I watch him avoid my eyes, shuffling in his chair uncomfortably and worriedly chewing a nail, I remember seeing him before. (55)
She had seen him at the local movie theater holding hands with and kissing a girl. If not for Archie noticing Max's nonverbal communication, she would have never caught on to the idea of this sexual act not having been consensual for him. And without her hint about this to Karen much later and Sylvie's intervention, this predator would have probably never been identifed. No one might have even believed Max had he made accusations without anyone else to support him.
Tarttelin's prose is succinct and yet poetic at times...as Max writes...
I prefer summer to the other seasons, for the heat. You can be out all day playing football and not even have to worry about bringing a T-shirt. But autumn is loveable. It's summer's dying cousin. It's somehow vulnerable, for the world to die so publicly. You feel tender about autumn. (40)
I love this passage for the symbolism and the poignancy and emotional content that Max depicts! He is empathetic, kind, and caring. He is so very sensitive to and communicative with his little brother, Daniel! I love that about Max so much! Is 'he' a typical 16-year-old male who is the beloved football player, 'pretty boy' etc., in his school?
Again, Max is so very courageous as to purchase a pregnancy test kit himself without involving anyone else. Unfortunately, one of the girls who sometimes deigns to speak to Sylvie is the person working at the register when he pays for it. Of course, she spreads the word that Max got a girl pregnant and everyone begins guessing who it might be. His father, Steven, is running for political office, forcing both Max and Daniel to attend many events, and Karen to worry about anyone discovering Max's secret after they've worked hard to allow Max to grow up without any more attention to the matter of his mixed genitalia than he already endured as a child for the sake of medical professionals' curiosity.
|I might envision this as a younger |
Max/Maxine--many times infants and
toddlers appear very androgynous!
It was heartrending to watch Karen deal with her belief that Max has been having unprotected sex with males, and is therefore, gay. I was rather amazed at her inability to accept this. The decisions regarding medical procedures virtually drove this family apart in so many ways. And then Sylvie must digest this knowledge as well and it is...well, at the very least difficult for her, as his 'friend':
How is this even possible? He always looked totally boyish before, but now I'm looking him over and thinking, This is a girl, and trying it on for size, and I'm noticing, yes, there are some major similarities between being seductive in a pretty-boy way and in a girl way, I knew the guys I had dated before were more...guyish, but I thought that was because they were in uni and older and more mature. Max has no facial hair at all. Didn't I think that was weird? Why didn't I? What does this say about me?
Well, I just thought he was blond and blond people don't have much excess hair, and he was younger than all my other boyfriends. I just thought he was sexy, supersexy, and I didn't stop to think, like I am now, that if you brushed his hair over to one side, and those amazing green eyes with their Bambi-long lashes, and those pouty lips, and that big, sweet smile, and the soft, soft, skin, and the kind of thin-ish neck and not-massive chest and delicate, long fingers and cute, round arse... (244)
Really, this isn't all that unusual. There are many 'females' who have many 'male' features, and vice-versa if you openly consider individuals prior to classifying them as strictly male/female. I have wondered about people I've met and dealt with before...but truly it is none of my business and it is immaterial to me. I evaluate/judge people based upon their personalities once I get to know them, not upon their looks, gender, etc. It really is a much easier and nicer way to approach life overall. :)
Have you read this one or Middlesex? I'm sure there are others... What are your reactions? I would heartily recommend this one!