Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman ( web | tweet )
Published January 20, 2015 by Henry Holt & Co.
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: intersex individual, family, friendship
Format read: ARC paperback from Macmillan. (Thank you!)
Summary: Born with male and female genitalia, Alex has decided to become more public with the fact that she identifies more with being a female. Much to the surprise of her parents, Alex stops taking medication, enrolls in a new school, and is determined to get the sex on her birth certificate changed. In addition to the pressures of her parents and making friends at her new school, Alex is dealing day-to-day with her feelings and navigating a path to self-acceptance and happiness.
This is my first reading experience featuring an intersex character, and I’m mighty proud that Alex as Well is a young adult book. As difficult as it is to put yourself in Alex’s shoes as she stumbles through this monumental and difficult time of her life, void of much support, this book proved to be a fast read — very personable and intriguing — even if it dropped off at the end.
Imagine your parents made a decision about who you were before they should have. This is basically what Alex is dealing with. Deciding she was a male, Alex has been taking medication for a long time and finally decides to stop because of the fact that she identifies much more with being a female. I tried to give her parents the benefit of the doubt. They thought they were doing what was best for their child — making a choice but also filling Alex’s life with many neutralities. So when Alex makes her admission to her mom and dad — her dad bolts out of guilt and her mom acts like this is a personal blow.
It’s interesting, actually, because Brugman folds in chapters of blog posts by Alex’s mom, discussing how she feels about being a mother to Alex and her latest proclamation of her womanhood. Some comments are also included from the sensitive to the “who the fuck do you think you are” crowd, which felt like a true reflection of what people (and the peanut gallery) might be saying about intersexed individuals. Alex’s mom lets it all hang out, not afraid to sound totally unreasonable and make Alex’s life choice all about HER. It’s gross and disheartening, and all I hoped was that this family would receive professional help.
The one bright light in Alex’s life was Crockett, a lawyer Alex seeks out to help her with a change on her birth certificate. Their scenes together are few, but still meaningful, because he’s one of the only people that seems to listen to Alex and want to actually help her. Not in a way that helps himself, but in a way that actually puts her on a path to a happier life. (Smart move on Brugman’s part to tap into the legalities side of a situation like this one too.)
Even though Alex has a ton on her plate, she’s strong and I wish we could have tapped more into that with a longer, fuller story. There were so many aspects of this novel that skimmed the surface and with a lively voice like Alex’s, I would have gladly hung on for more.