AUTHOR: Kacen Callender
CATEGORY/AUDIENCE: Young Adult
GENRE: Contemporary, romance
RELEASE: May 5, 2020
PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray
LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository
Felix Love is worried he’ll never get his happily-ever-after—not when it comes to romance, or to his family, or to his art, or even to his own identity. Things get even worse when an anonymous transphobe begins targeting Felix. In a quest for revenge, Felix crafts a plan to catfish (and eventually destroy) the person he’s certain is behind it. He’s not expecting to land himself in a complicated love triangle, all while trying to figure out his own identity.
Felix Ever After is one of those beautiful books in which the romance isn’t the only love story. It’s certainly a romance, and involves a love triangle, but so much of Felix’s story is about falling in love with yourself. Felix, who has been medically transitioning and presenting as male for quite some time at the beginning of the book, is still questioning his own identity. He wonders if he’s strictly a guy, and he struggles with coming to terms with this. Will the people around him judge him for his identity changing? Felix’s father has been slow to accept him, and he’s worried about shaking up their already fragile relationship.
This conversation of identity changing and growing is such a valuable one that so many queer and trans readers will relate to. Throughout the novel, Felix tries to wade through his complex feelings about his gender through online research and support groups. I loved reading about him exploring his identity and falling in love with himself; I found myself rooting for Felix to find his happily ever after in his own self from the very start to the very finish. Felix Ever After truly validates all identities and touches on fluid and non-binary genders, which I’m so happy to see more of in YA.
This YA contemporary deals with a number of other heavy themes: class, art, family, friendship, and allyship. Felix is an artist attending a prestigious school and often feels out of place among the more privileged students who go there—he’s Black, trans, and raised by a single working-class father. Felix is also still struggling with his mother’s abandonment. My heart broke every time Felix wrote a letter to his mother that he would never send. Felix also struggles with some complicated dynamics in his friend circle and he deals with transphobia and microaggressions.. Readers should be aware that this book also deals heavily with bullying, parent abandonment, outing, TERFs, and deadnaming (off-page).
In order to avoid revealing too much about the plot, I’ll simply say that Felix finds himself in an unexpected love triangle with two people he didn’t expect to fall for. The romance brings up so many new and complicated feelings for Felix; as he catfishes the person he believes to be his harasser, he begins to question his own assumptions. To be clear, though, since this was something I initially worried about when I read the synopsis: Felix does NOT fall for the transphobic harasser. For me, the highlight of this book was Felix’s journey of self-discovery and identity, but readers who like friends-to-lovers or love triangles will especially adore the romance.
Felix Ever After is a wonderfully diverse novel that I’m so glad exists. Felix is Black and trans (#OwnVoices rep!) and his best friend, Ezra (another artistic, lovable character) is biracial and queer. Many of the other supporting characters and queer and/or BIPOC. It’s always a joy to see so many authentic, fleshed-out, intersectionally diverse characters. I loved all the representation in this book and know that it will mean so much to so many teen readers. Felix’s family was handled particularly well; so often in YA, when it comes to queer characters, we see parents who are either super supportive or extremely non-supportive. I loved that Felix’s dad was an example of a parent who isn’t a perfect ally, but is trying. The hurt caused by his mother’s abandonment was another layer to Felix’s experience. Felix struggles with reconciling his anger towards his mom with the desire for her love that he still carries. There are so many real and authentic relationships throughout this book, and Kacen Callender handles them each with such care.
Kacen Callender’s books have been so highly recommended to me, and I’m so glad to have finally picked up one of them! They’ve clearly got a unique, powerful voice that knows how to tell real stories. Felix Ever After tackles some heavy, complex themes: self discovery, identity, trauma, family. But it also has a perfect dose of levity: romance and beautiful friendships. Readers who’ve liked Kacen’s work before should definitely pick this one up, and I’ll be recommending it to fans of Mason Deaver, Claire Kann, Mark Oshiro, and Nic Stone. I’m so happy to add this title to my library collection and will be including it in future book displays and reading lists.
Thank you to Epic Reads for the free review copy via Edelweiss+.