Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman is such a realistic look at how sometimes the people who should care for you the most can utterly and completely let you down.
Alex is intersex. She doesn't quite know this when we're introduced to her life. What we do know is that until now she's been raised as a boy, but she knows that she's really a girl. She describes it in terms of there being two Alexes—one who is a boy and one who is a girl. Her parents want her to stay a boy. But she knows she's actually a girl.
I don't think I've ever read a book about someone who is intersex or transsexual. I'm including both because although they are slightly different, I think in a lot of ways the book captures the experience of someone from both groups. While I haven't read any books about an intersex or trans person, I spend a lot of time on the internet, and on a website that generally supports intersex and trans people. I support intersex and transsexual people.
It kills me to know that there are people out there who are not safe being themselves. I don't understand why society doesn't accept people as they want to be. I think Alex as Well will provide a good starting point for readers who don't know a lot about the subject, as well as readers who can relate on a personal level.
Alex as Well is set in England or Australia (Brugman is Australian). I couldn't tell at first. I was like, why does Alex use all these weird words for things? But then I realized, ohhh not weird, just not American. Which I think was also interesting. It shows that both hatred and acceptance don't follow country boundaries. It shows that parents can be emotionally abusive and stunted everywhere. Brugman shows us Alex's mothers thoughts from posts on a motherhood website. This allows readers to feel both compassion for a woman who feels so far out of her depth (and frankly, her mind), but also allows a critique of parents who want to do the right thing but fail.
Alex as Well also gives readers who can relate personally hope. Even though people insult Alex through out the book, Alex stays strong. She finds friends and a life. She survives. She imagines her life in so many different ways through out the book (something which I found really realistic), and even though her life may not be as glamorous as she imagines it, it's still a good life. She still has the opportunity to flourish.
I would recommend this book to readers who like realistic fiction about family conflicts. Although it isn't a perfect novel (Alex and others use hurtful comments which might turn away some readers), I really believe this book is a beneficial addition to young adult literature.
Favorite Quotes: People want to know which one you are. They want to be able to decide what you are, even when they are just walking past on the street and will never see you again. It's crazy. Most people don't see it as a gray area. They are physically affected when there is confusion.
You're different. You wanted Ty to know you're different. And it's like the canary in the coal mine. If he can care about you anyway, even if you're different, then maybe they can all love you despite the other thing.
But it doesn't occur to them to consider how they're hurting me.
You know who you are.
I shouldn't have to explain myself to every person I meet.