Monday, February 15, 2021

Felix Ever After - Kacen Callender

 

Summary: 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.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: I read this book in basically a day and a half. It was super engaging but it was also…just…a lot. It’s intense to live inside someone’s head that way. I believe that this is the point when I tell you that Callender has definitely created a character with a very strong voice and fleshed them out enough that it feels real and raw and the reader experiences all of the emotions right along with them.

This story is really pertinent right now, and unless you’ve been completely unaware of your surroundings, I’m sure you know people who have different gender identities than the normally accepted cis identity are now speaking out and demanding to have a voice. As you surely know, this is not going as well as might be hoped and the recent political climate is unfriendly to these sorts of voices. So there’s been a lot of conflict, hurt, and misunderstanding. Felix Ever After attempts to help the reader understand what it is like to be someone who is questioning their gender identity, and also face racism and all that comes with that, and I’m telling you, it’s intense. Now I’m not saying that all people who question their gender identity have the same experience. Felix is, indeed, someone who feels loudly and brightly and burns with an intensity that one would expect from a high school senior who is the exceptionally talented hot shot of their private art school in NYC. As is the case with teenagers (and I’m searching my feeble mind for what that was like for me), being a teenager is intense and the feelings are intense and so, therefore, when you live inside their brain for a full day and a half and try to understand them, it’s just…a lot. So, I’m giving that warning and caveat—this book sucks you in. It makes Felix’s hurts your hurts, and I feel like it felt like a very real representation of what a high school senior in this situation may feel like.

 Besides the fact that you’re drinking from a firehose regarding Felix and his personality, I really appreciated the perspective of seeing what someone who is questioning their gender identity may face. Obviously, some families are more accepting than others. Some friends are more accepting than others. And some people just have an easier time. This sort of personal questioning is always difficult, no matter how much support you have. Personal struggle is personal struggle.

 My main complaint about this book is that I feel like although his friends were definitely woke, some of their conversations and use of woke phrases were inauthentic. This is not to say that these kids don’t believe what they were saying or that they didn’t feel the feelings they were articulating, but I just have a hard time believing that there are any teens who are able to be as articulate as these teens were, or even as assuring. Their supportive conversations were those of a much older, much wiser person, perhaps even a therapist or someone who is very knowledgeable of what to say and what to do in these situations. Now, as I’ve thought about this, I think that although there is no way a group of teenagers spoke this way, perhaps Callender was creating these conversations as a model for readers to know what to say and how to behave in some of these new and confusing situations. Reading is an excellent teacher, and when a teen reads this story, I would hope they would have the opportunity to learn the vocabulary and words to be supportive to such a friend. For that, I’m going to let it slide.

 I thought this was a powerful read about an older teen questioning their gender identity and trying to figure out who they are and who they love. Because of the extensive language and the content, I’m going to recommend it for older teens.

My Rating: 4 Stars

 For the sensitive reader: There is extensive use of the “F” word and lots of content regarding sex and gender identity.

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