by Kacen Callender
“You don’t get to use my pain to make your point.”
Blurb from publisher:
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.
I am the first to admit that mistaken identities, especially of the catfishing variety, can make me uncomfortable. But I adored how it was handled here. This story lets teens be messy and figure things out. Some react well when they mess up and learn and grow. Others don’t. And that’s, unfortunately, realistic too.
This book has been getting all the buzz, and then it blew all the buzz out of the water by being even better than I expected. This is one of the best YA contemporaries I have read in a while. I absolutely adored it. Callender explores questions of identity with nuance and compassion.
One thing that really stood out to me here–especially within the YA market–was its exploration of the many forms transphobia can take. We of course get the more traditional villain who will out someone publicly and then harass via social media. But we must also contend with a TERF within a liberal, queer group of young friends. And the emotional impact of both is felt in the story very deeply, especially the shame and silence around someone within your social circle behaving in this way. I think Felix’s instincts to internalize a lot of this, to not cause waves in the friend group, is realistic for a lot of teens. I also think its important that it normalizes continuing to refine your identity.
I also just loved the friendships–between Felix and Ezra. But also between Felix and Leah. It shows how friendships and relationships can morph and change, especially within high school, in a realistic way.
I have avoided going off in response on a particular bad review I’ve seen posted, and don’t want to give it more attention, but would like to address a couple of the points it raises as critiques here because I think they are problematic in evaluation of this story in particular.
- Characters don’t always have to be likable for their stories to be worthy. Narratives need conflict. Characters will either learn and grow from this or not. You don’t have to like the character. Personally, I think Felix is a bean doing his best and is willing to own up to his bad behavior. I’m not expecting a teen to always get it right. And I’d rather current teens see good examples of how to best move forward when you don’t get it right. I can struggle with this likability idea in narratives as well, and I do get it. But based on the rest of this reader’s review, I think there’s something else underlying their response to Felix in particular that is problematic.
- If you are reading a story about a trans teen and, or any trans character, and are centering the feelings of that character’s parents over the trans character, that is not okay.
- Tied somewhat in with the previous, the review tries to indicate the book lacks closure. Rather, the book did not provide the closure that reader desired. The book does provide closure of the storyline they are critiquing. They just don’t like the way it ended. I was satisfied with the way this storyline resolved. Additionally, I would argue no narrative owes us definitive closure.
Anyway, it’s still Pride, you should definitely read this book. Pride over by the time you’re reading this? Good news. You can still read this book.