Codes for Reviews

First Initial (Overall Rating):
E = Exceptional
VG = Very Good
G = Good
F = Fair
NR = Not Recommended

Second Initital (Reading Level):
A = Average Reading Level
E = Easy
M = Mature

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Alex As Well

General YA Fiction

VG/A Brugman, Alyssa. Alex As Well. Henry Holt and Company, 2015. 214 p. 978-1-62779-014-7. 16.99.

Alex was born with both male and female body parts. Her parents chose to raise her as a boy, so throughout her childhood she has been on hormone drugs and has been treated as a boy. As the story opens, the 14-year-old Alex is five days in to going off of her hormone drugs. Following a brutal bullying incident in which she was stripped naked and thrown in a river (with the incident posted on youtube, no less) Alex enrolls herself in a new school without her parents’ consent. Here she IS a girl from day 1. The most appealing and humorous aspect of the novel is the internal bickering between “Alex” and “Alex” – the boy and girl personalities inside her head. At first, treating an intersex character in this way – essentially as a “multiple personality disorder” sufferer – seems insulting to people in this situation. Alex is not “sick,” she is struggling for self-acceptance and to be accepted by her parents. However, with going on and off hormone therapy at such a young age, and with Alex being aware of having to “act” in such a way as to be convincing as a boy at her first school, and then as a girl at the second, Brugman convinces us that Alex could indeed think of herself as having an unwelcome observer/commentator (male Alex). Complicating matters even more, Alex quickly starts falling in love with a girl in her class, and has to deal with a boy falling for her. The narrative is told from Alex’s point of view, interspersed with her mother’s confessions to the fictional website Brugman’s use of this device helps make the mother a believable character, not a screaming villain. The ending seems rushed, but this is still definitely recommended. Philip Levie, YA Librarian, Panorama City Branch Library, LAPL.

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