Genres: contemporary, young adult
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Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. Heartbreaking and droll in equal measures, Alex As Well is a brilliantly told story of exploring gender and sexuality, navigating friendships, and finding a place to belong.
So, I don’t usually do DNF reviews, and when I do, I typically put them into round-ups with multiple books in one post. But this is a book I felt needed extra attention. Alex as Well is about an intersex individual who was raised as a boy but she is really a girl. It starts right as she starts her transition. I wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t the intersex and trans elements that put me off of this. That part of the story was interesting, including the insights into her parents’ heads. Instead, what made me ultimately put this down came down to two things: the voice, and one kinda weird scene.
Okay, first, the voice. It was sooooorta stream of consciousness. It felt like every little thing that popped into Alex’s head was written down on the page. But that wasn’t really the problem. The problem was that Alex separated herself from Boy Alex in her head, as if there were two separate Alexes occupying the same body. Boy Alex would frequently have something to say and would interject into the narrative. It was really jarring and just didn’t make sense to me. Especially since Girl Alex would narrate Boy Alex in the third person. It just pulled me out of the text and made me think too much about who was saying what.
Now, the weird scene. Like I said above, Girl and Boy Alex are like two people in one head. And Boy Alex was very… boyish. There was one scene where Girl Alex was in a fitting room trying on girls’ clothes and Boy Alex was watching her in a mirror. And then he… masturbated. In the fitting room. While looking at himself, essentially. This happening once is probably something I could have gotten over, but it was mentioned a couple times afterward and it made me uncomfortable. Masturbation in a public fitting room, first of all, and then the weirdness of the fantasy. It just didn’t sit with me, I couldn’t relate, and I dreaded another scene like this coming up. I don’t consider myself a prude, but maybe this makes me one. Oh well.
I’m sad I didn’t end up liking Alex as Well as much as I had hoped. I am so excited that there are so many more books coming up that represent the other letters in the alphabet soup of LGBTQIA+. I really look forward to reading those, but Alex As Well just did not work for me.