Published: 5th May 2020
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Trigger warnings: Transphobia, drugs, sexual references
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.
This is a moving and genuinely authentic portrayal of a trans character and their story, which also brings outstanding representation across the board. The diversity is simply boundless in an extremely relevant work of literature that is written with great sincerity and contains many heart-warming moments, as the author strikes a neat balance between informality and the exploration of sensitive topics.
It is immensely character driven and several readers will undoubtedly be made to feel seen by this book and its concept; something that really adds to its power. While at times it is predictable and uses common tropes without a huge amount of subtlety, it pertains perfectly to a young adult audience and in all honesty, it is just impossible not to be taken in by Felix himself.
Felix is an art student in New York who is desperate for two things. One of them is to be accepted to study at Brown University ahead of his rival classmate Declan, and the other is to fall in love. He wonders why it seems so easy for everybody else including his best friend Ezra, and fears that being both black and transgender could have made him too marginalised.
He is proud of his identity but still has many insecurities and complicated thoughts, which are not helped by the fact his mother refuses to contact him and his father seems strangely unwilling to call him by his name. Then one day at college, he arrives to find that someone has put up a gallery with pictures of him before he transitioned that also reveal his former name. In addition, the person responsible is sending Felix transphobic messages on social media.
Horrified and upset, Felix is convinced that Declan is the culprit and is intent on revenge. He sets up a fake Instagram account and starts to send some messages, but the conversation goes much deeper than expected and he finds himself having to face up to a whole set of feelings he did not know he had. At the same time, he is coming to understand how he feels about himself.
As is usually the case in a young adult novel, it assumes a fast pace from the beginning and along the way it really does pack a lot in. There is a huge amount of angst involved as Felix goes through a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, yet it still captured my attention almost every step of the way and succeeds overwhelmingly in terms of character development.
They are all just incredibly realistic, with unique personalities and a tendency to make mistakes and display all the flaws one might expect from the average teenager. It gives the story that extra degree of credibility and in some ways helps the reader forge a stronger connection with it, while even though it is primarily about Felix, the author is able to give us a reasonably good picture of each character with only a small amount of dialogue.
In terms of the plot, it is one of those where for the most part it is easy to foresee what is eventually going to happen but a lot of fun seeing how it plays out along the way. The dynamic between Felix and Declan progressed a little too quickly for my liking and even though there was a clever little twist on the enemies to lovers trope towards the end, the final outcome of the romance element left me with some mixed feelings.
The entire book is told in the first person from Felix’s point of view, and that alone is what makes it so encompassing and profound. His path towards self-discovery if far from smooth but his constant determination to get there, show defiance towards his anonymous online abuser and be the person he really is make him easy to root for. There are times where he could be impetuous and jump to conclusions, though that only serves to make him more relatable for the audience.
As we are only told about Declan from the perspective of Felix, he initially comes across as stuck-up and acting as if he is superior to his classmates, but he becomes this almost vulnerable, multi-layered character as we get to know him more. However, it is Felix’s relationship with Ezra that is the most significant. Even as friends, there is an intimacy between them and I loved how Ezra would always support and stand up for Felix.
For the same reason, Leah was an extremely likeable character and it was also good to see Felix gain acceptance and encouragement from those such as his art tutor Jill and the members of the group whose meetings he attends later in the story. His dad is an interesting case, as on the one hand he is supportive but on the other he clearly still has an inner conflict with Felix’s identity. This touches on an important issue and in general it is explored very well.
There is not much to remark on about the settings as the art college mostly resembles the kind of high school environment we often see in young adult literature, although on a separate note I liked how the narrative surrounding Ezra’s privileged yet unaffectionate upbringing brought further depth and context.
The writing flows naturally and the author really takes ownership of the fact that it is told from the voice of a teenager, bringing the most of Felix and the other characters as a result. The choice of language used is in keeping with the authentic nature of the book, and in fairness there are occasional examples of elegant prose.
Overall, this is the story of Felix. The other characters might be superbly developed but make no mistake, it is all about him and he carries it beautifully. Some areas of the plot were not quite as nuanced as I perhaps would have liked, but putting that to one side, it is in many ways a ground-breaking novel that inspires delight and positivity.
Just like the main character in this book, Kacen Callender is black, queer, and trans, and has put a lot of their own experiences into crafting the story of Felix. They have also written middle grade and fantasy, winning awards for Hurricane Child, Queen And The Conquered, and King Of The Dragonflies.
Originally from the island of Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Callender has achieved great success and recognition for Felix Ever After, with the book earning an average of almost 4.5 stars on Goodreads.
Certain areas of the plot may not be out of the ordinary, but the concept and context of the story most definitely are, as well as the magnificent representation and well developed characters. An enjoyable read for sure.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5