Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman
|Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: The story of Alex, a transgendered Australian teen. Brought up as a boy but identifying as a girl who also fancies girls, Alex's journey is one you'll never forget. An important, affecting story with layers of unreliable narration that will really make you think. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 216||Date: May 2014|
|Publisher: Curious Fox|
|External links: Author's website|
Alex As Well opens as its eponymous central character makes a huge decision. Alex has been brought up as a boy. But she feels like a girl. And so she decides to stop taking her medication, get a makeover at a cosmetics store counter, and enrol at a new school. As a girl. And, aside from a few hairy moments - getting changed for PE, working out how to converse as a girl, providing the enrolment officer with a birth certificate - it all works out pretty well. Alex starts to make friends and revels in her new feminine identity.
At home, though, that's an entirely different matter. Alex's decision is cataclysmic. And far from supporting their child, Alex's mother loses the plot entirely, while her father does a bunk. Nice, you might think. I certainly thought that. But Alex's mother posts her thoughts on an online forum, and through them you discover that she has information about Alex's intersex condition that Alex does not. Yes, she's selfish and stupid and goes about in self pity whilst failing to support her child, but she is also trying to protect her vulnerable daughter from the consequences of the rash, unalterable decisions teenagers often make.
Both daughter and mother are unreliable narrators and, while your sympathies will (rightly) probably lie entirely with Alex, you'll see a genuine picture of a family in crisis and how members of those families so often do the wrong things for the right reasons or even the right things for the wrong reasons. And while Alex's own story is all about the intersex condition and her transgendered identity, the upheaval with her parents is a universal one. All teenagers must redefine their relationships with their parents as they grow up. How else do they grow up? And through it all, there's Alex, telling us in an inimitable and intimate way, what is like to be her. What is like to have a "noodle" but feel like a girl. What it is like to be mocked and bullied. What it is like to be fancied - as a girl - by a boy. What it is like to have the world telling you that you aren't the person you know yourself to be.
Honestly, honestly, honestly: I truly loved this novel. It's brave and important in that it tackles a difficult and taboo subject without fear or compromise. It's clever in that it applies layers of multiple narration so that you really have to think about what you read and examine your own motives and biases. And yet, it's also a joy to read: energetic, funny, believable and with a central character you'll never forget. Alex is quite wonderful. She's determined and witty and, well... herself. Three cheers for Alex.
So yes, Alex As Well comes with the highest of recommendations from me. There's so little out there for young people in the LGBT community. There should be more. Do read it.
You can read more book reviews or buy Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman at Amazon.com.
Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman is in the Top Ten Teen Books of 2014.
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