Book Review: Alex As Well

Title/21469086Author: Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, LGBTQ

Published: January 20th, 2015 by Henry Holt and Co.

eARC, 224 pages

How I Got This Book: Netgalley

Why I Picked It Up?: I was really interested to read a story with an intersex character, so I knew I just HAD to request this from Netgalley.

Book Jacket Blurb: “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.”

Thoughts:

To be honest, I was really excited to read this story. Ever since my human sexuality class in undergrad when we talked about individuals who are intersex (born with both male and female sex organs) I have been interested in reading more about it. So when I stumbled across a YA story with a main character who is intersexed, I was thrilled to read it. But then I did read it. And honestly, I have some seriously mixed feelings about this book. And that is mostly due to the way that this story was told.

While I love that this is a book that explores intersex identity and the complex emotions that come with it, I don’t know how I feel about HOW the story is told. I am a little uncomfortable with Alex’s inner monologues and conversations as being portrayed more like multiple personality disorder. I don’t think it was the intention of the author to write her main character with that type of mental health issue, but that is exactly how Alex comes across to me. I understand that the reality for intersexed individuals, especially those who do not know that they are, is extremely complex, but I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of portraying her identity as more of a mental illness. It just made me feel really uneasy about the characterization and story-telling choice.

On another note, while Alex’s parents made me so FURIOUS, I found them to be so realistic. Because there are parents out there who would react just the same ways as hers do. Heather’s blog entries were authentic and real (even if they were angering); they perfectly depicted a mother who is in denial of her child’s reality.

Sidenote: the Galley had many typos in these blog posts, probably to  make them feel more “authentic” or whatever. But honestly, who doesn’t correct a typo? It just didn’t feel very authentic at all, and I found that really distracting. 

All of that being said, I am glad that there are books out there than feature an intersex character. I have always wanted to read a story about the complexities that must come with that mix of physiology. The story itself was good–it just had some major execution problems for me. I want to continue to find more books like this, though.

My Bookshelf Rating:

This is a book that I honestly have a hard time giving a true rating that would reflect how I really feel. On the one hand, I love that there is at least one story like this out there; on the other, I really didn’t feel comfortable with the characterization. So I am torn I feel uncomfortable even giving this a rating.

For a High School Library.

Love and Elf Fudge Cookies,
Jennifer

 

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