Publication information: May 5th, 2020 by Balzer + Bray
Description (from Goodreads):
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.
Two sentence review: A diverse, well-written and structured story about Felix, a transgender teen, trying to understand his identity amidst friendships, possible romances, and cyber bullying. Important, thought-provoking story with an interesting cast of characters.
It has been a while since I’ve read YA contemporary novels and very early on into Felix Ever After by Karen Callander I was reminded why I once used to read YA contemporary so much – at its best, books within that categorization can be heartwarming, thought provoking, and entertaining all in equal measure. Felix Ever After is all that. And as a bonus, I feel like I really learned something new.
Felix is Black, queer, and trans. While those are characteristics he himself likes and is proud of, he realizes that he lives in a shitty society in which those aspects of himself are seen as something to point out, something to examine, something to question, something to ridicule. When someone at his high school puts up a gallery featuring pictures of him before his transition and in the process deadnames his, Felix is justifiably upset. But he is also also determined to execute his revenge…
Since it has been a while from my last experience with a young adult novel it took me a while to get back to the mindset of teenagers. I will go right away and say that this book was not written for me and thus it is not my right to start to judge whether the characters act realistically or whether the things they do are logical or not. It has been a while since I was teenager, but I do remember the times during which things were felt so intensively and every word and action of someone you are already suspicious of is analyzed with care. Because of that, Felix’s determination about the guilt of one specific person that he is already suspicious of makes total sense; he feels like he has been hurt and judged by that person previously and it makes sense that this person would be willing to take the hurting to the next level.
Obviously, as we all know, things are not always what they seem and as Felix continues with his revenge plot he starts to learn new things about the people around him – things he might not have wanted to know as well as things that first take him by surprise, things that eventually lead to unexpected realizations.
There are things that I especially loved about Felix Ever After: (1) the flawed, sometimes messy, yet very realistic characters and relationships and (2) the process Felix himself goes through in order to define his identity more clearly. Felix Ever After‘s pages are inhabited by characters who are smart and accepting yet also tend to reach certain conclusions without giving them a second though. We all act like that sometimes, but especially as teenagers I feel like jumping into conclusions is quite common especially when it comes to issues related to budding relationships and ones status within the high school hierarchy. I communicate with young people through my job and I am continually amazed by how tolerant and capable of critical thinking many are and felt like that really also came through in this book – while reading this I kept thinking that we will be okay if people like Felix and some of his friends are given a voice and a power to make decisions in the future.
“You weren’t happy and now you are and that is all that matters.”
The relationship between Felix and his father is an interesting one and develops throughout the book subtly but powerfully. As Felix becomes more comfortable with himself I feel like he is able to more clearly voice what he needs from his father. While Felix starts the book with wanting to be in love, the process of him finding himself and learning how to love himself is the absolute highlight of this book.
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