Monday, June 15, 2020

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender: A Beautiful Journey of Self-Exploration, Love, and Identity

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: May 5th, 2020
Genre: Contemporary YA LGBTQ+
Tropes: Enemies/rivals to lovers, friends to lovers, love triangle
# of pages: 368
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for honest consideration
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Buy: Amazon Canada || Amazon US || Indigo

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.

I finished Felix Ever After a few days ago, and I’ve been sitting with my thoughts and feelings, trying to cobble together something coherent to describe how much I loved this book, how beautiful it was, how important it was, and how much I wish there had been books like this when I was a teen.

This book features so many of the things I love about YA, and it felt like a true, realistic portrayal of the teenage experience. The friendships, the family issues, questioning the future, experiencing jealousy and uncertainty over a wide range of issues. Then there were the things that made this book stand out: the fact Felix was Black, trans, and queer. The fact that even though he was mostly certain he was a boy, he still questioned his identity and struggled with looking for a label that felt accurate.

I loved Felix. My heart alternately broke for him and soared for him. I wanted to be his friend and hold him tight and tell him I loved him and that he was worthy of all the love in the world. His struggles with self-worth will likely ring true for many people - that desire to be loved and accepted, to be seen for who you really are. While Felix was the star of this book and he shone so brightly, there was also a fantastic cast of supporting characters. Ezra was an incredible friend to Felix, the kind who loved and accepted him unconditionally. He was Felix’s champion, quick to stand up for and defend him. I also ended up really loving Declan, and Leah was a great character too.

This book didn’t shy away from discussions about gender, identity, and sexuality, which I loved. Not only does Felix talk about being trans and uncertain about whether he truly feels like a boy, his whole friend group is queer too. We get to see the spectrum and fluidity of sexuality and gender, and how they can change, how it can be difficult to find the right fit, and how sometimes you just wish there were no labels so you could just BE. I also appreciated the exploration of prejudice - particularly transphobia - within the LGBTQ+ community. I think a lot of people likely think we’re this big, happy, inclusive rainbow family, but that’s not always the case, and there’s still work to do to make sure everyone feels welcome, valid, and included.

Early on in the book, Felix mentions reading a book called I am J by Cris Beam when he was twelve and how it helped him realize all the confusing things he'd been feeling were legitimate and he wasn't alone. It was what helped him realize the reasons he'd never felt quite right as a girl and that he didn't have to be a girl. I loved seeing this because everyone deserves to see themselves within the pages of books (and reflected in media, TV, movies, etc). I know so many people who discovered parts of themselves they didn't previously have words for because of books, so it was wonderful to see that in Felix Ever After, and I hope people will pick up this book and feel relief, joy, validation, and so many other emotions to see themselves reflected in Felix.

I mostly read contemporary romance these days, but once or twice a year, almost always in the summer, I go on a YA kick. Felix Ever After started 2020’s Summer of YA, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect book to start with. Books like this remind me why I love YA so much, even though I’m far from its intended audience these days. I hope this book finds its way into the hands of all those who need it most, for whatever reason.

Have you read Felix Ever After? What did you think? Do you have any recommendations for books featuring trans characters?

*Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate, and some of the links in this review are affiliate links. All income made through affiliate sales goes directly back into maintaining Ramblings of a Daydreamer. Thank you for your support!

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