Alex wants change. Massive change. More radical than you could imagine.
Her mother is not happy, in fact she’s imploding. Her dad walked out.
Alex has turned vegetarian, ditched one school, enrolled in another, thrown out her clothes. And created a new identity. An identity that changes her world.
And Alex—the other Alex—has a lot to say about it.
Alex As Well is a confronting and heartfelt story of adolescent experience—of questioning identity, discovering sexuality, navigating friendships and finding a place to belong. Alex is a strong, vulnerable, confident, shy and determined character, one you will never forget.
With the same tenderness and insight as YA stars such as John Green and David Levithan, Alyssa Brugman has crafted a knockout story about identity, sexuality and family that speaks effortlessly to a universal teen experience. From Goodreads
As they knew about my interest in LGBTQ YA/gender in YA, my colleagues in the Children's Dept at work brought Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman to my attention. So eager was I to read it, I couldn't wait until closer to the release date to read it, and picked it up a week after receiving it. So glad I did, such an awesome story!
Alex has spent his whole life feeling that he should be a girl. After an incident at his old school, she stops taking the pills she's taken as long as she can remember, and enrolls at a new school as the girl she was always meant to be.
What Alex doesn't know is that she was born intersex, and her parents react badly to her declaration and new identity. Alex's mother has firm ideas on who Alex should be, and Alex is most definitely a boy. The doctors said so. Why is he ruining things? Why won't he just see sense? She's his mother after all, she knows what's best for him. And that's to take his medication, be a boy, and stop pushing against the boundaries.
Alex As Well is a very quick read, at only 216 pages, and you find yourself flying through it as you become engrossed in Alex's story. Alex has never been told that she's intersex. She knows she has a penis that isn't quite right and no testicles, but her mother always told her everyone's different. Because of this, she sees herself as transgender. When she decides to be female and enrol at a new school, she asks solicitor Crockett to get a new birth certificate for her that says she's female. As Alex chooses to identify as female, other things change too, like she becomes the person, as well as the gender, she was supposed to be. She gets a new image, she becomes a vegetarian, and she becomes bold and daring. It's great watching her transformation and seeing her be herself finally, and really enjoying it. Alex has her fears about being found out, but she enjoys the opportunities and fun that come with being this new "me". Because of her enjoyment of her new self and her fun with friends, Alex As Well is in some ways lighter than other intersex novels I've read. When we're not hearing about her mother, it can be quite an amusing and funny story, especially some of the conversations Alex has with her male side in her head.
However, Alex does have Heather for a mother, and so life isn't just confusing, it's also hard. Throughout the book, odd chapters are from Heather's point of view, as she blogs on a website - motherhoodshared.com - about where things are with her relationship with Alex. What's so frustrating is you can kind of understand the source of her actions and reactions, but you simply cannot stand the way she goes about things. As the book goes on, you learn to understand that there is a reason for all of this, but in my opinion, it doesn't make the way Heather treats Alex ok. It's just awful, and so terribly sad. She sees Alex as rebelling and being a teenager, and it's something they could discuss if he would just behave, but she simply won't listen or look at things from Alex's point of view. It's heartbreaking, and you can understand the decisions Alex makes because of it. You can't help feeling so sorry for her!
Alex As Well also looks at sexuality. When she was going along with being male, Alex was into girls. So "he" was "straight". Now Alex is a girl, this hasn't changed. So this means... she's a lesbian, right? It's not something she really thought about when deciding on her gender identity, but now she's a girl and is thinking about it, there's some confusion. She now has guys fancying her, but she's still looking at girls. It's awesome to see Alex figure things out and be honest with herself and others. Alex is strong, bold and brave, and considering all she goes through, she is so inspiring! I really loved her!
Alex As Well is an awesome - and welcome - addition to LGBTQ YA featuring intersex characters. Considering its light side along with the harsher elements, I'd say this is the perfect book for teens to start with when learning about or trying to understand intersex people. It's a great introduction to the topic, without shoving too much doom and gloom in your face. An amazing story, and I'd really recommend it!
Thank you to The Curious Fox for the review copy!
Published: 8th May 2014
Publisher: The Curious Fox
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