Review: “Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender

Release Date: May 5, 2020
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Description

“Felix Love has never been in love–and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many–Black, queer, and transgender–to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages–after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned–Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.”

My Review

For Felix, a Black, queer, and trans teen, life is a series of big questions and few answers. He’s in his senior year of art school but hasn’t figured out how to translate his prodigious talent into real art. He wants desperately to get into Brown, but the competition is fierce and his artistic waffling could cost him admittance. Years ago his mother abandoned him and now his father can barely remember to say his name. His relationship with his best friend Ezra seems on the verge of becoming something new, but he can’t seem to let go of his catastrophic split with his now-nemesis rich boy Declan. Speaking of Ezra and Declan, their wealth and privilege makes Felix constantly question his worth as he skips between their luxury apartments and his grungy studio. 

Then someone hacks his Instagram and puts up a gallery with his pre-transition childhood photos and deadname. In retaliation, Felix decides to catfish the person he thinks is the most likely culprit: Declan. Felix-as-Lucky learns more about his enemy than he intended and begins to see the boy in a different light. Yet all the while, the cyberbullying continues until Felix is bursting with frustration and rage. As he tries to figure out how to expose the guilty party, Felix is also trying to understand his own gender identity. He’s definitely not a girl, but is he really a boy? 

Kacen Callender is one of those authors whose books I automatically buy because I already know I’m going to love it. And of course I loved Felix Ever After. Callender gives Felix and the rest of the cast the room to be flawed and troubled without shaming or condescending. Even the antagonists get to do shitty things without being cast as villains; after all, teenagers often do terrible things to one another because they’re going through terrible things of their own and are trying to process those emotions. Yes, some are just assholes, but many will (hopefully) look back at their adolescent behavior and feel nothing but regret. 

I’m going through my own process of rethinking gender, and I only wish I’d had Felix Ever After as a teen. If I had, I would’ve been able to answer a lot of my questions a long time ago. Required purchasing for any upper school library and teen/YA section.

Buy it at Bookshop.org (affiliate link)

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