DNF Review: Alex as Well

Posted December 5, 2014 by Kara in book review / 8 Comments

DNF Review: Alex as WellAlex As Well Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers on January 20th, 2015
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Pages: 221
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.


8 responses to “DNF Review: Alex as Well

  1. Hiiiiiiii.

    Omfg the masturbating nope nope nope nope. I’m not ready to throw it off my TBR quite yet, but Alex As Well just landed on my mental “I’m watching your reviews” list. Maybe next year’s other intersex book None of the Above will be better? I hope so. With so little lit about intersex teens out there, one would hope what’s there would be good. If all of them turn out like Alex As Well… 🙁

    Mmmmmm, alphabet soup. <3 The president of my school's gay-straight alliance club tried to rattle off all the letters once and failed, which was pretty damn funny. Needs more soup.

    • Honestly it was just SO unwelcome and off-putting and I felt like the WORST person for feeling this way but I just could not.

      As for alphabet soup, I try to just use MOGAI now, but not a lot of people know it yet. I hope it becomes normalized because it’s SO much more inclusive and just easier to remember/say.

  2. Jillyn

    I’m really sorry to hear you didn’t like this one- it was one of my favorite reads from this year. I totally get why you didn’t like it though, I think it’ll definitely be a “love or hate” type book from reviewers. I think why it worked for me is because my girlfriend has a very similar struggle with a “male self” and a “female self”, so this book just kind of clicked for me.

    • I can definitely understand the struggle between the two selves, but the way it was executed didn’t work for me. I’m really glad you liked it, though, and found something in it that you could relate to!

  3. I’m sorry this book didn’t work for you. Like you, I am so glad for more books like these coming out. I think that they are a wonderful thing and so important for individuals who are struggling with their identity and sexuality. The way they are executed can really change whether it’s a fantastic read or not though. If you are uncomfortable reading it, then it’s not going to have that “awesome book” quality. I will be reading it soon, and hope that I have better luck with it than you do. Great honest review hon!!
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