Book Review – Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

books, reviews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I wasn’t entirely sure whether I would finish this in time or not. I’d had a slow end to the week and had let my reading go. Thankfully, it was a pretty quick read and I got the majority of it done on Sunday. I forget that YA novels don’t take as long to read as the books I usually read. Mostly because it doesn’t have that literary fiction desire to complicate things. It did take a bit longer because I was so careful not to ruin the gorgeous stencilled edges of this book. It’s such a beautiful thing and I need it to say as pristine as possible.

I don’t have a great history with hyped YA novels but I wanted to give this one a read during Pride. It sounded like a really interesting read and a very important book in terms of representation. Showcasing the story of a 17-year-old trying to figure out their identity, this is a great step in terms of getting more awareness into the world. The world has come on a long way in the last few decades in terms of LGBTQ+ rights but there is still a lot of pressure on young people to work out who they are. We are a world obsessed with labels and putting people into the correct boxes. So, it’s really refreshing that books like Felix Ever After exist to show that it’s quite common to be confused by it all. Especially when the protagonist is a young black queer, transgender teenage boy.

It was at a fairly young age that Felix realised that he didn’t feel like the little girl that everybody else saw him as. So, after a lot of discussions with his father and medical professionals, he started the transition to become a boy. However, something still didn’t feel quite right. Despite being more comfortable as Felix, he still saw himself as an outsider. So, when he starts being victimised by an online troll, it only heightens his concerns. It reaches an awful level when the mystery figure publicises photos of Felix before he transitioned and reveals his deadname. Can Felix work out who is targeting him? Will he ever get to grips with his identity and become comfortable in his own skin?

I really enjoyed reading Felix Ever After. Although it’s not the most beautifully written book that I’ve ever read in terms of language, I think the prose is quite repetitive and simplistic. At times it seems quite stilted and the dialogue doesn’t always feel totally natural. However, I don’t think that really matters. This isn’t a book that’s trying to present this story in the most lyrical way. It’s a book that has a purpose beyond the language. Even though Felix Ever After is a story about the importance of language, it focuses more on representing a marginalised part of society and giving them a voice. It is meant to show young people that it’s okay to feel confused and overwhelmed. It needed to be more simplistic and understated to make this message stronger.

It’s also a joy to read this book. I often find the characterisation of young people in YA to be a bit weird and unrealistic. I think the characters here all ring fairly true. I know plenty of people won’t agree with underage drinking or drug taking but that’s what a lot of teenagers are like. It deals with plenty of issues that 17-year-olds care about. They aren’t overly mature, which is an issue that I have with certain YA novels. It is also a further way to show that feeling confused is perfectly normal. There are plenty of conversations between the characters about labels and identity. Instead of showing everyone as secure and comfortable with themselves, it shows different sides of the story.

Of course, this isn’t just a joyous book about young people and the possibilities at their disposal. There is darkness and heartbreak within this novel. We see the harsher side of being part of the LGBTQ+ community and get a firsthand account of the kind of transphobia that occurs throughout society. Felix and his friends all face some form of retribution for living openly as queer people. This isn’t a novel that sugarcoats the experience for young people. However, it also shows that there is plenty of support out there. Felix ends up with a strong social circle of supportive friends and family. He also visits support groups and medical professionals for advice. I also think that showing him just researching on the internet is a positive thing as it’s something that anyone struggling with their identity can do as a first step. Felix Ever After may be upsetting at times but it always shows that there is hope.

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