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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
Ash is a boy. He has always known he was a boy, and his parents have always agreed. It even says “male” on his birth certificate. But his parents have always insisted that he never tell anyone that he is also intersex. It’s so rare and confusing, they taught him, that it’s better if it stays a secret.
Unfortunately, when Ash unexpectedly starts menstruating for the first time during soccer practice, his intersex identity suddenly becomes very public. He gets kicked off the team, his friends abandon him, and his parents insist that he is now a girl, enrolling him him in a new school where he is forced to wear a dress and use the girl’s bathroom. Ash struggles to please his parents, giving “being a girl” a try, but when they announce that they want to have his male genitalia surgically removed, he realizes that home is no longer safe. On the run, Ash soon learns that being intersex isn’t nearly as rare his parents led him to believe and that the fight to live as his true identity must begin with accepting and loving his own body.
JUST ASH is a message to intersex teens: you are not “wrong,” and you are not alone. The heartbreaking abuse Ash endures from his parents is balanced by the love and unmitigated acceptance from his older sister, his girlfriend, his intersex support group, and a supportive teacher. But the most heart-wrenching part of the book is how much a reality experiences like these are for many LGBTQIA+ teens. In addition to the positive (and grossly underrepresented) intersex perspective, the story and characters are compelling. I would recommend this novel to fans of YA contemporary fiction, to intersex readers who want to see their experiences represented, and to any teen reader who does not know what it means to be intersex.