Alderman was educated at South Hampstead High School and Lincoln College, Oxford where she read Philosophy, Politics and Economics. She then went on to study creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a novelist. In 2007, The Sunday Times named her their Young Writer of the Year.
She was the lead writer for Perplex City, an Alternate reality game, at Mind Candy from 2004 through June, 2007. on the life of a new author...: Presume not that I am the thing I was She has written articles for several British newspapers, and has a regular technology column in The Guardian.
Her father is Geoffrey Alderman, an academic who has specialised in Anglo-Jewish history. She and her father were interviewed in The Sunday Times "Relative Values" feature on 11 February 2007.
Her literary debut came in 2006 with Disobedience, a well-received (if controversial) novel about a rabbi's daughter from North London who becomes a lesbian, which won her the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers.
Since its publication in the United Kingdom, it has been issued in the USA, Germany, Israel, Holland, Poland and France and is due to be published in Italy, Hungary and Croatia.
Her second novel, The Lessons, was published in 2010. Both novels have been serialised on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime.
She wrote the narrative for The Winter House, an online, interactive yet linear short story visualized by Jey Biddulph. The project was commissioned by Booktrust as part of the Story campaign, supported by Arts Council England.