All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

on July 20, 2021

Felix Ever After
Kacen Callender
Faber & Faber
2021, 354p
Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: From 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 marginalisation 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 recognising the love you deserve.

I’ve heard a lot about this book in the past few months and seen it around quite a bit – it definitely had a lot of buzz generated prior to publishing and because I think it was published first overseas, between that and it being released here in Australia.

It has a large and varied amount of representation: Felix, the main character, is Black, queer and trans. His best friend is also a person of colour and their friend group at St Catherine’s, a school in New York also contains lesbian, bisexual and gay students.

Felix is well down the road of transitioning – he’s had top surgery and takes hormones. He lives with his father, a single parent after his mother left years ago, before Felix transitioned. Felix’s father is supportive but also confused and sometimes has trouble remembering the correct pronouns and Felix’s name. It’s not because of bigotry or a reluctance to accept this new version of his child, but I think, simply it takes time to undo years of one way of thinking. He tells Felix that sometimes, Felix is still his “little baby girl” which makes Felix’s skin crawl. I really liked the way the relationship between Felix and his father was written – it wasn’t perfect. Felix’s father often struggled with various things in relation to Felix’s transition but he tries to be as supportive as possible, he tries to be the sort of parent that Felix can rely on. Perhaps especially because Felix hasn’t had any contact with his mother since she left. He writes her draft emails, which sit in his inbox unsent. She has a new family now and seems to have zero interest in knowing anything about the child she left behind, which is definitely something that weighs Felix down. Felix readily acknowledges the things his father does for him, such as working multiple jobs to send him to St Catherine’s, even moving somewhere cheaper. I feel as though it’s not unrealistic for a parent to struggle with the child they’d known for over a decade as one particular thing, becoming another thing and even though it’s not from a place of disappointment or anger or fear or anything negative, it still has an impact on Felix when his father calls him “kid” rather than his name or accidentally uses an incorrect pronoun.

During the summer program at St Catherine’s, which Felix is taking to help pad out his application for Brown, someone creates a gallery of Felix’s old photographs along with his deadname. It’s a punch in the stomach to Felix, who not only finds that vision hard to look at but why would someone do that? He’s determined to find out who did it and humiliate them, make them feel the way he did when he saw those blown up images. He’s pretty sure he knows who it is…..but it’s when he starts on his project to find out, that things start to get really complicated.

And I enjoyed the complications. Felix is forced to reassess his own judgement and image of people, seeing them for who they are, rather than who he assumes they are. He is negotiating a complex, stressful time. He really wants to go to Brown and he’ll need a scholarship to realistically be able to do so – at times he resents his best friend Ezra, whose parents are incredibly wealthy. He’s a talented artist but is struggling to come up with a portfolio topic that, lacking in motivation and inspiration – and he really needs to nail it, to help on his college application. It’s a suggestion from a teacher, that he turn a negative into a positive, to showcase himself as he wants to be seen, how he sees himself, that helps pull him out of this artistic slump and I felt like that was exactly what Felix needed.

I really enjoyed this and I feel like it’ll provide a way for many teens who are questioning themselves (because Felix is also still questioning things) and who are experiencing things that Felix is, to feel as though their experiences are important and are represented. There will be many out there that will see Felix living his existence and working through things and realise that they can do it too. That even though there will be people that won’t accept them, that will use hate and fear, there will be many that will. Felix has several really wonderful supportive friends who step up and defend him against the deadnaming and the gallery issue and want to help him find the coward that did it and hid behind anonymity. The eclectic group was really fun to read, they had their dramas and ups and downs but I think in the end, Felix really knew who he could count on. And the romance in this was really cute.

8/10

Book #120 of 2021


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