By Alyssa Brugman
Available now from Henry Holt & Co. BFYR (Macmillan)
ALEX AS WELL is a 2013 release from Australia finally making its way to our shores. The protagonist, Alex, was raised as a boy but has recently realized that she identifies as a girl. Her gender identity is complicated by the fact that she's intersex and doesn't fit neatly into either category.
I liked that ALEX AS WELL gets beyond the usual struggle focused on in books about gender dysphoria. Alex knows she's a girl and is quite firm about it. Her struggles are more about her relationship with her parents (especially her mother), getting her birth certificate changed, enrolling in a new school and making new relationships, and finding a job. Honestly, everything but the relationship with her parents goes fairly easily for Alex, but that one thing is bad enough she deserves some easiness.
Interspersed throughout ALEX AS WELL are blog posts by Alex's mother Heather and the resulting comments. The difference between the way Alex and Heather's tellings is striking - particularly the way Heather omits details like hitting Alex with a phone in a moment of passion. By the end Heather is somewhat over the top, but I like that Alex realizes that it is abuse and she doesn't have to put up with it. No matter what anyone tells her, she's not just a selfish teenager.
I thought there was an interesting progression in the narration in ALEX AS WELL. In the beginning, she thinks about conversations with the boy Alex pretty frequently and relies on song lyrics to express her emotions. She gets less reliant on both as she becomes more comfortable with her new life.
ALEX AS WELL is a short, engaging novel with a unique heroine and plenty of humor to balance the darker family drama and one hideous instance of bullying posted on YouTube.
If you're excited about ALEX AS WELL, I recommend reading Molly Wetta's list of LGBTQ fiction for teens coming out in 2015.