Title: Alex As Well
Author: Alyssa Brugman
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Publication date: January 20, 2015
These Australian authors are just killing it lately! The cover of Alex As Well caught my eye, so I read it in one sitting at the bookstore and then proceeded to buy it and bring it home so I can read it again later. It’s a book that deals with a subject I’ve never seen in YA fiction, so I was super happy to get my hands on it.
Before my review, a quick summary from the author’s website:
What do you do when everybody says you’re someone you’re not?
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.
Essentially, the heart of the story is that Alex, an Australian teenager, was born intersex and designated male by her parents. However, she’s realized that she’s really a girl, and her parents have trouble coming to terms with that. The story is told from Alex’s point of view, with interludes consisting of her mother’s posts on some kind of parenting forum.
Alex is just a girl. She tries to make new friends, has crushes on her classmates, wants to experiment with her style. But she also has to deal with the fact that there are people, namely her parents and her old classmates, who won’t let her be herself. Some characters I couldn’t help but detest – like her mother, for example, who is completely horrendous but unfortunately not outside the realm of realism. Others, like her new friends, are shown as characters who may not understand Alex at first but who grow to challenge their own prejudices in the end.
Of course, there were still a few elements of the novel I wasn’t wholly in love with. Alex mentally quotes popular song lyrics occasionally, which is really going to date the book in a few years. The way that she’s portrayed as having a male alter-ego, the other Alex, was also confusing at times, and I think could have been handled in a better way.
But overall, the book seems to deal with gender identity in a mature and complex way. The story was engaging and definitely did not take the turn of events that I expected in the end. I hope to look up more of Brugman’s work in the future, and I hope this book does well in the US!
4 out of 5 stars.