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Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman

Alex As Well

by Alyssa Brugman

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Short but in depth look at being intersex and what it means ( )
  WokeNerdWriter | Mar 27, 2018 |
“He looks at me and sees a hot chick—a smooth Clinique girl. I look at him and see a chimpanzee tugging on his little noodle.”

And so ends the first revealing chapter of Alex As Well, a powerful coming of age tale that isn’t afraid to put both tears and smiles on the page, and which doesn’t pretend there’s one perfect answer to the question of gender. Alex was born intersex, but while her mother decided to raise her as a boy, complete with a lifetime of hormone treatment, she doesn’t agree, and just wants to be a girl.

What immediately distinguishes Brugman’s tale is the way in which she tells it. Alex acts as our primary narrator, relating to us not just the events of her life, but also what she’s thinking and feeling behind the scenes. At the same time, she relates to us her struggle with the other Alex, the boy who used to live on the outside. It’s a conflict that’s painful, and which has the potential to be melodramatic, but it’s handled with just the right about of humour.

Alex’s transition is not an easy one. Her classmates don’t handle it well, prompting the change in schools; her father doesn’t handle it well, prompting him to walk out of her life; and her mother doesn’t handle it well, prompting her to take out her anger and her fear on Alex. Even though it’s her father who walks out, it’s really Alex’s mother who serves as the sort-of ‘villain’ of the piece. She takes everything personally, accuses Alex of screwing up her life, and even gets physically abusive in a few instances.

Her mother does introduce an interesting angle to the story, however, with her narrative pieces involving an online forum. Here we see how Heather presents her story to the world, and what kind of comments others have for her. It really opens your eyes to the different perspectives out there, and puts the biological question of Alex into context.

“I want to have a family who can love me as a girl, and just be normal. They say I am a weirdo and a pervert. If I was normal, they would not be like this with me.”

Alex is a typical teenager, self-centred and full of drama, but there’s a genuine pain beneath all her angry bravado. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but who does at that age? Ultimately, she just wants to be loved and accepted for who she is, rather than questioned and criticised for not being something else. The conclusion of her tale may come across as a bit harsh to some readers, but I found it a realistic approach to providing closure, leaving the door open for a more hopeful future.

Originally reviewed for Frock Magazine ( )
  bibrarybookslut | Jul 5, 2017 |
I am going to step out on a limb and say that Alyssa Brugman’s Alex as Well is going to be on my “ten best of 2015″ list. Yes, there’s an awful lot of 2015 left to go, but this book is a marvel: original, funny, infuriating, hopeful, intelligent.

Alex, the title character, was born intersexed and raised male, but she’s come to realize that she’s a she. That doesn’t mean the male Alex she’s lived as has disappeared—just that the female Alex feels more truthful.

The book opens five days after Alex has decided to stop taking her medication. She’s hanging out at a mall, the Clinique-counter girl asks Alex if she wants a makeover, and Alex tells us “I hesitate, because five days ago I would have thrust my hands in my pockets and scooted out of there. Instead, I steal across the floor and into the seat she has spun around for me.”

Soon after, Alex looks into a mirror; she sees both of her selves and they see her: “He [the male Alex] looks at me and sees a hot chick—a smooth Clinique girl. I [the female Alex] look at him and see a chimpanzee tugging on his little noodle.” Her two selves know each other well.

Most of the book is narrated by Alex, but interspersed with Alex’s chapters are her mother’s posts on a chat forum for mothers. She is not at all happy to find herself with a daughter and makes this clear to Alex, as well as to her chat forum-mates. Alex describes her mother in mid-rant: “My mother is screeching. Her face is all purple, her eyes are bulging, and there is a vein in her forehead, like the one Julia Roberts gets, but it doesn’t make my mother vulnerable and endearing, no, she looks like she’s having a forehead hernia.”

That description gives you a sense of the sort of person Alex is: exceptionally perceptive, exceptionally smart, and with a fatalistic sense of humor that helps see her through the hard times—of which there are plenty.

I don’t want to say much about the plot because this is one of those cases where the reader wants to travel along with the narrator, encountering challenges and successes at the same time she does. Suffice it to say, things are not perfect, but Alex’s sense that she’s finally following the path that’s right for her gives her the strength to keep going.

If you know anyone in the fourteen-to-twenty (give or take) age range who’s frustrated by the limitations of traditional gender roles, this book would make the perfect gift. You don’t have to be intersexed to appreciate Alex; you just need to know that the world is a whole lot more complicated than our cultural dichotomies would have us believe. And regardless of your own age range, check this book out. Really, it’s one of 2015’s best. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Jan 20, 2015 |
I wanted to read this one because it sounds like an emotional and powerful story, one that needs to be heard.

So, I was pretty confused at times, and I think it was meant to be that way, because Alex is both a girl and a boy and feeling confused themselves. Alex was raised as a boy but now wanting to be more feminine. Thinking of it as two different people did help but I was trying to consolodate into one person, because that is the truth.

Being a mom, I can see to a certain extent where she was coming from, but then again, not really. She wasn't very supportive and you could tell that she didn't accept or try to understand what Alex was going through. She was selfish and thought that their actions, even at the age of three where no child really understands empathy, blaming them for getting into her crafting supplies and that she couldn't have an identity outside of her child.

The new school seemed to bring some actual friends into Alex's life, even if she is still hiding a lot from them. Some of them do end up being positive in their live, but others not so much, and not always what you would think.

I didn't enjoy the end. It felt abrupt to me and I wanted a more solid ending, but if you are okay with open endings then it might be more suited for you. I wanted a bit more character development and at least more of the parental relationships more repaired or at least hopeful. I did like the direction that one of the friendships and standing with parent ended though.

Bottom Line: Unique main character perspective. ( )
  brandileigh2003 | Jan 3, 2015 |
What do you do when everybody says you're someone you're not? When 15-year-old Alex decides he is a girl no one knows how to react. Least of all her parents. Thankfully, Alex navigates life just beautifully her own way. The author plays this story for both its comic and tragic elements. ( )
  storyLines | Jan 5, 2014 |
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Raised as a boy, fourteen-year-old Alex, who has male and female sexual body parts, rejects the hormonal medications prescribed by his mother and decides to live as a girl.

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