Elizabeth Appleton is a sweet and easy-going adolescent. But as she turns sixteen, she discovers something so devastating about herself that her whole world is turned upside down. Elizabeth has been born without a womb or a vagina and is diagnosed with MRKH, a rare congenital disorder that affects the female reproductive tract. Frightened and confused, Elizabeth must struggle to understand how she can still be a girl but no longer a ‘normal’ one. As she questions everyone and everything around her – her burgeoning sexuality, her gender, her hopes for the future – Elizabeth must fight against the shame and betrayal she feels if she is to ever become the woman she has always hoped to be. In her first novel, Cecilia Paul, a renowned expert in the field of MRKH, sensitively explores and illuminates this complex and often emotionally fraught medical condition, in order to raise public awareness of MRKH and to support those affected by it.
The author has written this story to help raise awareness of MRKH. I have to admit even though I have heard of it, I didn’t actually know that much about it.
Through Elizabeth, the reader as well as the character and her family come to understand more about this condition. It certainly is a big learning curve for Elizabeth as she has to have treatment which most of it she has to carry out herself to get the best results.
I had every empathy for Elizabeth. Sixteen is a hard age to be at the best of times. Like most teenagers they just want to be normal and not really stand out in any way, especially from something that makes them different to others which can leave them open to bullying.
Elizabeth feels like she is a freak and at first finds it very hard to come to terms with. She cuts herself off from everyone and feels very much alone but it isn’t long before she opens up to the people she can trust. I have to say in the story Elizabeth has a fairly easy time overall through her experience of MRKH. She has a loving and supportive family as well as a great best friend. The staff and doctors at the clinic are brilliant and give her all the help and information that she needs. It doesn’t take long before she accepts her condition, though she does have the odd set back. She also has an understanding boyfriend, Tom, who loves her very much and is happy to see what the future has in store for them both.
When Elizabeth meets and befriends Melanie who has the same condition, I think that’s when it hit me more about how damaging this condition can be to someone mentally. Melanie has a lot more of a rougher time than Elizabeth as she doesn’t really have the support of her family and she has no friends that she feels she can trust enough so feels very much on her own. Her experience of going to see a so called specialist at a hospital was horrific and my heart really went out to her.
Elizabeth, Just Sixteen certainly is an informative read and one that I feel better for reading. Even though it is informative, the actual story wasn’t as engaging as I hoped it would be and I did find my mind wandering off at times. Overall though I would still recommend reading it so that people get an insight of this condition so it gives people a better understanding and in the hope that more people will open up about MRKH.
My thanks to Rachel at Authoright for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads rating 3/5 stars.
Elizabeth, Just Sixteen is due to be published on the 28th of June and is available to pre order from Amazon.
About the Author:
Based in London, Cecilia Paul has worked for the NHS, in the field of gynaecology for over twenty years and, where she later worked within a specialist team, specialising in congenital disorders of the genital tract. Together, they have treated hundreds of women with this unusual congenital syndrome, MRKH. Now retired, and with a wealth of knowledge under her belt, Cecilia has been inspired to write her first novel dealing with this little-known syndrome hoping to bring awareness and understanding into the public sphere. Furthermore, as she has retired, she would like to encourage these women to get the appropriate help from specialist centres, that can provide them with a holistic support and treatment. Elizabeth Just 16 by Cecilia Paul (published by Clink Street Publishing 28th June 2016) is available to purchase from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores.