I adore MPREG (male pregnancy) stories. Ask any of my friends and they might tell you that I talk about the gender exploration of the genre more than they’d like. So, as a result, I often seek out not only MPREG fanfiction, but also mainstream novels that utilize the trope. Yes, there are many. And when I noticed that “The Wiener Diaries” by Susanna Kramer was one such novel, I asked the author if I could review it. The concepts are good in this book. You’ve got a society that has suddenly developed a third sex, male-bearers, who are essentially hermaphrodites that can menstruate and get pregnant. The story focuses on a teen, Joss, who is such a person and how he deals with the identity of who he thinks he is versus who society thinks he is. So, yes, great concepts to explore. The execution, however, is a bit flawed.

This book feels like a first draft. It’s more scene, summary, scene, summary than a continuous storyline. The essential plot, Joss’ gender issues, are weighed down with red herrings and subplots that the novel doesn’t give time for. Max, who Joss has a one-night stand with and gets pregnant by, is cutting, yet that avenue isn’t actually dealt with in any way more than a passing mention. If he’s depressed enough to cut, possibly brought on by his big brother’s homophobia, then I would have liked to see that dealt with. Joss is the first male-bearer to become pregnant, though there are others immediately after him. However, society doesn’t seem to have a negative reaction to any of them when faced with them on the street. It’s just a calm acceptance of “a pregnant male-bearer is normal.” I would have loved to see some reaction, especially when it doesn’t seem like this society is very accepting of homosexuality despite the repeated assurances by the narrator. There’s a brief mention of one pregnant male who was killed and his baby removed from the womb that might give a hint towards a more sinister storyline, but that’s dropped quickly. And there’s a subplot about aliens having created this third gender, but they’re glossed over to a large extent. I was left unsure of who they were, what they looked like, and why they thought this path was the best one to take in achieving the peace they seemingly sought. Added to that, there is stilted language in the dialogue and noted editing and spelling errors throughout. Again, it feels like a first draft. I think many of these issues could have been cleared up with subsequent drafting and critiques.

One of the larger issues I had about the book was about the sexuality storyline. Joss falls into bed with Max out of nowhere and then repeatedly assures everyone he’s not gay. I can understand denying your own sexuality, I get that, but it’s more like everyone is against being labeled homosexual. Joss becomes pregnant and gets it confirmed by the doctor and his mother is more concerned with assuring herself that her son isn’t gay rather than dealing with the fact he’s pregnant and wants to give the baby to the scientists as soon as it’s born so that it can become a lab rat. Joss repeatedly says that as soon as the government will allow him, he’s going to get his female sex removed, thus becoming the full man he believes himself to be. Yet he has adults constantly telling him that it’s okay to experiment because he has both parts, giving him an out with the whole “I’m not gay” mindset. However, when the baby’s born and the doctor asks if he’d like to go through with the procedure to remove his female sex, he does an about-face. There was no lead-up or acceptance of his gender or sexuality, he just decides he’s okay with who he is randomly. I saw no motivation for the sudden turn in his thinking.

Gender exploration is hard and when a novel sets out to subvert the societal expectations of what it means to be male-gendered or female-gendered it’s made even more difficult. The spark of potential was there in this novel, but it was just not allowed to come through. I’m interested in what this third gender means for a society such as ours, as well as what the male experience is when dealing with menstruation and pregnancy. If those issues were given time enough to be explored, this could have been a great novel. Unfortunately, too many events and plots were condensed down into 140 pages so that all the interweaving plots got cheated. I’d love to see the author do short stories from this universe that has been created because I feel like there’s so much more to explore and I don’t want to give up on this world just yet.

Rating: 2 / 5 stars