Author: Alyssa Brugman
Released: January 20th 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Length: 224 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. Heartbreaking and droll in equal measures, Alex As Well is a brilliantly told story of exploring gender and sexuality, navigating friendships, and finding a place to belong.
In this day and age, very few topics are more important than intersex and/or transgender children. The world is changing right now and diverse books will certainly help us reach a positive outcome. Aside from being a beautiful book, Alex as Well is also a step in the right direction. I can’t remember any other recent YA books about intersex teens, and we can’t deny the necessity.
Alex was born with intersex condition, anatomically both female and male. Her parents were advised to watch her carefully and make an informed decision about her gender later on, but in their wish to have a normal child, they decided to treat her as a boy from the start. This was, as it later turned out, a much premature decision that ultimately led to a bitter divorce and a lot of pain and insecurity for Alex.
Short blog entries written by Alex’s mom (and the accompanying comments) were inserted between the chapters and they were the only thing that truly bothered me about this book. As one of the most important characters, Alex’s mom needed more nuance, but instead I felt that she was almost cartoonishly selfish and mean. I really felt that some struggle on her part would have added significantly to the story.
On the other hand, I thought that Alex’s voice was poignant and occasionally funny. I really felt her pain, but I admired her bravery as well. She was portrayed as a truly extraordinary 15-year-old with a strong sense of self, even if said ‘self’ is actually two people in a single body.
Alex as well is a beautiful book; not free of flaws, but free of anything that couldn’t easily be forgiven. It’s a valuable book that raises awareness and increases sensitivity to those that are in any way different. I highly recommend it.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.