Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman – Book Review

Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in LGBTQIA, Review | 1 comment

Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman – Book Review

by Stevie Schafer

Alex-As-Well

Alex As Well is a novel that fearlessly explores sex, gender, and sexuality through the eyes of an intersex teen. Alex makes a decision about her identity. The problem is Alex’s parents don’t support her decision. The story unfolds predominately through Alex’s fiercely independent voice as she stridently makes decisions and sculpts her own identity, taking it out of her parents’ hands.

Alex is fourteen, vibrant, and a kick-arse narrator. Brugman has done a great job crafting Alex’s voice. Alex is constantly breaking down the fourth wall, inviting the readers into her world. Although breaking the fourth wall can be risky, in Brugman’s hands it helps to bring the readers into Alex’s head.

Brugman intersperses Alex’s narrative with blog posts from her mother on a forum called ‘motherhoodshared.com’. The combination of internet confession combined with the comments underneath the posts punctuates Alex’s narrative with outside perspectives which are at times painfully misinformed and ‘normal’.

Alex also has two voices. One identifies as male (who is in the background, but fades as the story progresses) and one who identifies as female. I found this device a little prosaic, but when read generously it can help illustrate the way our binary gender obsession has carved up Alex’s psyche: ‘For me it’s a very grey area. Greyitty grey. We are the Earl and Countess of Grey, Alex and I.’ Alex resides in a grey area, breaking the binary at the same time as the fractured voices try to conform to the binary with phrases like ‘Earl and Countess’.

This book’s triumphant successes are showing just how obsessed we are at neatly dividing the world into male and female, how people constantly conflate sex and gender, and the pressure to conform. Alex makes a choice based on what feels right for her in a binary obsessed world and ultimately places a big question mark over the legitimacy of the binary. Alex As Well is a great book to help us think about gender.

Stories with intersex protagonists should be more common than they are. Such stories not only give a place to intersex individuals within literature, but also help to make intersex individuals more visible, especially to would-be allies.

Alex As Well is Alyssa Brugman’s twelfth novel and first novel published with Text Publishing, who have also developed related teaching notes.

For more information about intersex issues for both intersex individuals and allies, visit The Organisation Intersex International.

5/5 stars.

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This book review was written by Stevie Schafer.

One Comment

  1. Fantastic review. I’ve got this bookmarked, because I need to read this book. I completely agree that texts featuring intersex characters should be more visible, and hell, more plentiful. We are not compartmentalized as neatly as most would like. And we shouldn’t be. You also make a great point that literature like this would bring in new allies.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful review.

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