Intersex main character? I’m so in! Check out Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman!
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it all, we need to have a basic understanding of what intersex means. Intersex is a condition in which an individual is both male and female; as in they have both male and female “parts.” It’s not very common (the general statistic is 1 in 1500 to 1 in 2000 births), but it does happen, and there are many types of intersex individuals as well.
To learn more, check out the Intersex Society of North America’s FAQ. They do a much better job than I could do at explaining it all.
The main character’s name is Alex, who begins the book shopping for female clothes. Now, there’s Girl Alex — through whom the story is told — and Boy Alex, who both exist inside the same person. This isn’t like some sort of personality disorder or anything, though, but rather how Alex separates themselves to make more sense of who they are. Up to this point in life, Alex has been identified as a he, but feels to be more of a she and is taking steps to make that change. She transfers to a new school as a girl, starts wearing girl clothes, and is discovering just who she is.
I really liked the idea of an intersex main character, because trans* people alone aren’t represented much in media, and intersex people even less. Most people don’t even know that intersex is a thing, or they’ve heard of it but don’t think it can actually happen. The book doesn’t really discuss about the intersex community, and that may be because Alex is 14 and only just figuring out how life works, but the intentions are there, and perhaps that’s enough. I think the main focus — despite the book being about Alex — is how her mom is handling the situation. Every few chapters is a post her mom makes on a mothering website about her feelings about what’s going on, and comments on the post. Vic is secretly me.
Speaking of Alex being 14… you wouldn’t know without me telling you until a ways into the book. At the beginning of the book, when she’s shopping for girly clothes, she’s by herself, so you assume she’s old enough to get herself someplace by herself. To be fair, she takes the bus a lot, but she makes so many decisions by herself without consulting her parents, you begin to question their parenting methods (even excluding the intersex thing). Who gives a 14-year-old that much freedom? Why is she enrolling in a school by herself? And hiring a lawyer alone? What’s that about? As the book progresses and you figure out that she is, indeed 14, you begin to see it in her angsty, whiny ways (sorry to my 14 year old friends; you’ll mature out of it) and actually get really annoyed with her. You’re 14! Calm down!
Another thing, though, is that a lot of people look at the early teen years and assume everything they’re going through is a phase, and probably for a lot of things that’s the truth. Phase or no, though, what they’re going through is very real because it is their life and it is happening to them. It’s easy to look on from the outside with an older point of view and say (maybe with absolute confidence) that they’ll grow out of it, but they’re not thinking about how they’ll feel in the future; they’re thinking about how they’re feeling now. That said, there are times in the book when something that should clearly be thought out (by adults) is rushed, and you kind of have to wonder if the whole thing was written by a 14 year old (if that were the case; props to you! [but it’s not the case]).
Overall I enjoyed the read. It’s a pretty short book (214 pages), so I was able to read it in a day (mind you I spent most of that day at the salon getting my hair dyed), but looking back on it now that it’s been two or three days, I’m kind of teetering on a different star rating than I gave it before (which was 4 stars; now I’m thinking maybe 3.5 or 3.2). In any case, it was a pretty good book, and I’d recommend it to those who want something besides dystopian trilogies to read.
Till next time,