Friday, 18 January 2013

Alex as Well

Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman (Text Publishing)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781922079237
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

If the reader is confused in the early pages of this book, it is nothing to the confusion going on inside the head of the main character. Alex,  born with an intersex condition (a 'noodle' and ovaries), has been brought up as a boy, with the aid of medication. Now fourteen year old Alex has stopped taking the medication and is determined to be a girl. Alex's parents, who have never been honest about his/her condition, are horrified. The story is about Alex's fight to be who she really is.

Written in first person, the strength of this book is the distinct voice of Alex, as she enrols in a new school as a girl and tries to make friends. Male Alex is also present, in the internal dialogue and talking to other characters. It is the male Alex who serves as the female Alex's confidante for much of the book, discussing bodies, sexuality and of course parents. This works well most of the time. There were only a couple of occasions where it was a little unclear which Alex was talking.

The point of view of Alex's mother is in the form of posts on an online blog. This supplies some of Alex's history and describes her mother's difficulties in raising such a child. However Alex's mother comes across as quite an unlikeable character in her determination for Alex to remain a boy. Her father, while more sane, shows a similar lack of understanding of Alex's wishes and feelings.

This book doesn't supply any easy outcome for Alex, whose parents refuse to accept her choices. She discovers modelling (a source of income) and finds a lawyer, who enables her to break free from her parents. But while she is at liberty to be herself, things will never be easy for someone like Alex.

This is an unusual book about an unusual person. At times it is quirky, other times quite sad, but Alex has no choice but to make the best of things and this strength comes through in an inspiring way. Alex as Well is suitable for older young adult readers. 

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