Our 1st book review of the year and it’s a very different genre that we’ve explored this time around. While visiting Point-Claire Village last summer and more specifically The Babar Bookstore during the Montreal YA! Festival, I spotted this book and was immediately drawn to it. Not only for its content, but also because I mean have you seen the cover?!? So, this week on the blog, we’re reviewing Kacen Callender’s Felix Ever After- have a read and while you’re at it- pick this book up.
Felix Love is a very talented Black trans teenage artist, going through all of the typical things teens go through, in trying to figure out what they would like to do with their lives. Except, Felix has to navigate the very murky waters of racism/transphobia/an online troll/a father who is supportive but still can’t wrap his head around the fact that he now has a son i/o a daughter. As Felix grapples with his identity, searching for creativity, things take an unexpected turn when a prank turns into something much more and the best friend he has ever had stops talking to him. It’s full of teenage angst and open, clear dialogue about learning to love oneself inspite of all of the pressures to do the very opposite.
Felix: Trans seventeen year old, desperate to experience and fall in love, struggling with his gender identity and the fact that his mother abandoned him and his father.
Ezra: Felix’s gay best friend, closest confidant; who rejects his family’s wealth in order to live his life more freely, away from judgement and scrutiny.
Declan: Ezra’s ex bf and Felix’s biggest competition to get into, Brown’s College, the prestigious art school.
Felix’s Dad: Though he struggles with using the correct terminology and is resistant to using Felix’s chosen name, he is very supportive and honest with Felix and how new it all is for him.
Friend “circle”: Though there are various kids in this circle, it’s mainly, Marisol, Leah, Austin- all friends with Ezra while Felix tags along, but the nature and their individual relationships change throughout the book.
I’d thought Felix had only meant ‘lucky’, so now there’s a whole other definition to my name to wrap my brain around…I’m pretty freaking happy, too.
Break It Down:
Like most teenage lives, it’s packed full of hormones, lots of tears, angst and dabbles of drama, this book doesn’t divert from the usual recipe. Felix is full of questions regarding his identity and how he identifies, adding to the fact that he is struggling with what he wants to do after high school. Declan being his biggest competition for the single scholarship Browns offers. As the book progresses, Felix begins to realise that his biggest issue isn’t all of the ones he believes they are (creative inspiration/getting into college/gender identity/falling in love/abandonment)- it’s actually himself and the way he views himself through the eyes of others. Once he taps into what he already possesses and focuses on his needs, his individuality- he literally begins to flourish.
One of Felix’s deepest desires is to fall in love and the irony that his last name is Love, he is so focused and in some ways jealous of how free and open Ezra is with his dating life and can’t figure out why he can’t have the same. When someone at St Catherine’s displays a gallery of Felix’s gender at birth and dead naming him- this not only devastates him, but Felix is convinced it was Declan’s doing. Felix begins to take matters into his own hands and catfish Declan under the name “Lucky”- the meaning of Felix. But things take a turn when they build a bond and Declan begins to share personal and private things about himself with Lucky. Even after Felix learns Declan wasn’t behind the gallery, this doesn’t stop Felix’s catfishing and their feelings deepen. While exploring his feelings for Declan- Felix realizes that his real, true, honest feelings are with Ezra that he has been ignoring and denying.
One of the themes which are pretty central to the book is the idea of belonging. Feeling like an outsider in the various spaces Felix inhabits. He feels and relates to thinks on so many levels, being trans, black, an artist, lacking in confidence, dealing with internet trolls, seeking out love/connection in places you shouldn’t. But on the flip side, having the support systems in place, navigating a new “world” with his father, having friends/acquaintances from the LGBTQ+ spectrum, attending the Pride March, attending discussion groups at the centre for the LGBTQ+ community.
I accept this book is geared to YA’s so the language isn’t complex, but it sometimes read a little “childish” and simplistic and in some instances it annoyed me a little bit. But I accept that the author probably didn’t want to lose the audience with complicated language. It was about the message and that most definitely gets through.
It was easier to live with the idea that, even though I want love, I’m not the kind of person who deserves to be loved.
Would I Recommend?
This is one of my 1st books of its genre and I have to say I enjoyed it. Yes it’s a YA book and yes it’s “heavy” in parts, but it’s not “adult” heavy. So 100%, I would recommend and especially so for young people, to make them feel less alone.
3.5 out of 5. Not that it wasn’t a good book, but I felt the writing and penmanship was a little too juvenile for me and that bugged me a bit.