Title: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: 5 May 2020
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary
Page extent: 368 pages
Goodreads blurb: From Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.
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.
Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.
How do you describe a book which just completely floored you in all ways imaginable? A book that tells you you’re valid, even when your whole body says you aren’t, when society says you aren’t, when your own family says you aren’t. This book is amazing. It’s fun, the story is so engaging (I read it in less than 24 hours, I can’t remember the last time I read a book so fast), the voice is excellent, I can say with complete confidence that this book is going to be one of my favourites of the year!
Felix Ever After follows Felix Love, a 17 year old Black, trans, queer boy at art school. When someone puts up a gallery of his old photos before his transition, along with his deadname, Felix decides to catfish his bully to try get revenge. Instead, he somehow ends up in a quasi-love triangle, even though Felix has never even been in love himself.
First and foremost, this book has one of the most incredible YA characters of all time. Felix was written so realistically and so honestly. He makes terrible decisions, he’s impulsive, he doesn’t think before speaking and I loved how flawed he was. He just felt so much like an actual teen. But most importantly, there were so many moments when I had to just pause for a second because I was tearing up seeing how much I related to him. Felix is a character going through a journey of questioning who he is, he’s terrified he’s a fraud at being trans now that he as a niggling feeling that sometimes he doesn’t feel like a boy (though he knows he doesn’t feel like a girl then either). It’s always so heartening and validating to see characters in books going through the same journey you are, especially as someone who has always felt like a fraud in the queer community because I’m in a cishet appearing relationship. More than anything, I feel like I’m Felix at the start of his journey. I’m not yet at the stage of being happy and proud of who I am, I haven’t reached the end Felix yet. But seeing that it is possible is so hopeful (and also terrifying) and one of my favourite things about reading queer books like Felix Ever After.
This book is very clearly written for trans teens, and that’s what I love most about it. It’s so open and honest about the struggles teens feel when trying to work out who they are, and what they want to do in their future. It also shows the complicated relationship queer people often have with their families, and I liked the way Felix, and characters around him, struggled to resolve their feelings with family. In Felix’s case we see both the absent parent and the one who’s there, who clearly loves him, but who constantly causes pain and hurt by deadnaming him. We see the complicated relationship this results in: Felix knows his Dad loves him, after all he helped him get on T and have his surgery, but his Dad forgets or doesn’t seem to try at other things. We see this relationship contrasted again with Ezra’s parents, the rich absent parents who seem to care only for their son when he’s on show, and then again with Declan, whose parents don’t want him. We see so many of the difficulties queer people have in their families, I feel almost all of us will find a family we can relate to in Felix Ever After.
This book does have lots of transphobic comments (it’s literally about a guy trying to get revenge on his transphobic bully) so do be prepared for that going in. I really appreciated that Felix Ever After also addressed trauma and pain coming from inside the queer community. It’s something we don’t often talk about, but which occurs so readily for some of us. And when it comes from inside our community, where we’re meant to feel safe, it hurts so much worse than if it had come from somewhere else. We see how this furthers Felix’s fears that he’s a fraud, even down to the way he’s terrified he’ll be asked to leave Callen-Lorde (a queer only pharmacy and clinic) because he isn’t queer enough. It’s just so fucking relatable it hurts, and I loved that Kacen Callender confronted this trauma head on because fuck me, is it something that needs to change. The constant transphobia, biphobia, acephobia from members of the queer community is so unacceptable. Felix Ever After is set during Pride month, this month where we’re supposed to celebrate who we are, where we’ve come from and be proud. I’ve never been to Pride because I’m terrified of the hate I’ll receive from the queer community. And as much as I hate that others also receive this hate, I’m glad that Callender openly wrote and addressed this in Felix Ever After.
All in all, I think it’s very clear I adored this book. Despite the dark discussions it has, it’s also really fun and hopeful and Felix is pretty much my favourite character in YA now. This book is so important for anyone who’s ever felt left out, who’s felt like a fraud, or who’s questioning their identity. It’s just phenomenal!