ARC Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender // On Trans, Queer, and Black Identity and Why I Adored this Book So Much

I have a solid feeling Felix Ever After will be my favorite book of 2020.

Ever since I read the synopsis of this book, my expectations for it were soaring, and after reading it my love for it was even higher. Felix Ever After was such a joy to read, but it also felt as if each page wrapped around my heart and saw the deepest corners of my soul. Sometimes, I feel as if this book was written just for me, as a nonbinary queer Black person.

So in this review, I’ll be discussing why I loved this book so much, but also how my love for it closely binds with the identities and experiences I shared with the main character, and even others. Approaching this review was something for me, that took a lot: I feel as if I’m maybe oversharing even, but I think talking about my personal experiences is necessary to convey my love for this book.

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about the book

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender // May 5th, 2020 (US)

rating: 5 stars

From Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

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.

Amazon // IndieBound // Book Depository // Barnes & Noble

I received an e-ARC of this book from Balzer + Bray, a HarperCollins imprint, via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes used are taken from an advance copy and are unchecked from the final publication.

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If I had to do one thing for the rest of my life, it would have to be to get everyone to read Felix Ever After. I adored every single page of it, and initially finishing it I was rendered speechless, and I still almost am. I saw myself in so much of this book, and also enjoyed every single page of it.

Felix is such a character I would regard as one of my favorites, because while I loved his personality and cherished him so much, he’s a character I saw myself completely in. One of the first major events which occurs in this book is Felix discovering a fellow student at his prestigious arts high school put up a gallery of pictures of him pre-transition with his deadname on it, and the rest of this book revolves around him getting back at the perpetrator of this horrific situation. While thankfully—nothing of this extent has happened to me personally, I related so much with him. As Felix is Black, queer, and trans, it’s not hard to feel that sometimes, the whole world is against him, and it’s exactly how I feel as well. While this is is mostly a happy book, something I’m glad about, Felix gets so much shit for just existing, and from every corner of his life. As someone who is closeted in real life, it not even being an option for me to be otherwise, I identified so much with he daily things he had to endure.

One of the things I loved about this book was how it portrayed unsupportive parents of queer and trans youth. I feel as if the former is a weird thing to remark on, but it’s unfortunately a reality for so many people. Even though something I do wish this book had were parents who were completely loving and supportive—while not all are downright homophobic and transphobic, there weren’t any who were initially completely accepting of their children—but, this does reflect the world we live in, especially one I do. I won’t go into specifics with the character I’m talking about, because then it’ll start going into spoiler territory, but there’s one character I related to a lot with how their parents’ feelings on their queerness.

Like mine, they have parents who believe their religion makes up queerness as something abhorrent and abnormal, their parents treating them accordingly; and as the book mentions:

“My dad is hardcore Catholic. I used to hope that he’d decide to change his mind—that he could accept me, because I was his [child]. And then I’d laugh at myself. Like, how fucking arrogant is that? Expecting my dad to love me more than he loves God.”

I will never be able to be myself to my family due to their internalized beliefs, and therefore have to face constant homophobia (against others and in general, because I am not out) and misgendering daily. I always wish this wasn’t the case, that I could have parents and family who would love me no matter what, but it’s a reality I’ve become accustomed to.

Also, throughout this book, Felix also questions his gender frequently—he is sure he isn’t a girl, but doesn’t 100% identify completely as male or nonbinary, and later realizes he is a demiboy. Although I am not, though on the trans spectrum, I closely related to his constant feeling of uncertainty concerning gender identity and being queer. I feel as if the media paints realizing gender identity or queerness as this single moment, an epiphany of “this is what I am” so easily, and while it is like that for some people, sometimes the experience is completely opposite and it’s such a struggle. This book conveyed those feelings so perfectly and it’s one of the things I loved so much about it.

This book also highlights that not having a label in the sense of gender and queer identity is completely okay and commonplace, while also acknowledging that labels are important for many, and customarily give a sense of clarity, knowing there are other people just like you. While it mentions this many times, here’s one quote I loved regarding it:

He shrugs with a smile. “I honestly don’t care that much about labels. I mean, I know they’re important to a lot of people, and I can see why—I’m not knocking them. It’s just . . . I kind of wish we could exist without having to worry about putting ourselves into categories. If there were no straight people, no violence or abuse or homophobia or anything, would we even need labels, or would we just be? Sometimes I wonder if labels can get in the way. Like, if I was adamant that I’m straight, does that force me into only liking girls? What if that’d stopped me from falling in love with a guy? I don’t know,” he says again. “I get that labels can be important.”

“They connect us. They help create community,” Leah says. “I can see what you’re saying. If the world was perfect, maybe we wouldn’t need labels. But the world isn’t perfect, and labels can really be a source of pride—especially when we’ve got to deal with so much crap. I’m really freaking proud to be a lesbian.”

And along with this, it also discusses how even though queer spaces are important and needed, especially for youth, they can sometimes be overwhelming and even feel unwelcoming. This is a pretty minor thing, but I really did want to mention it as it’s something I related with so much. (I also loved how Felix’s deadname is never on-page, I feel as if it’s the opposite for every other trans YA book.)

But with all I’ve mentioned previously, this book is a constant reminder that even though the world seems to be against us who are queer, of color, and trans, we still manage to live remorseless and proud. Pretty much every major and minor character in this book is queer, and many are POC, and there are so many happy queer scenes it fills my heart to think about. The romance(s) in this book is everything, and this book made me feel so joyful. I just loved reading about Felix and all of his moments of mirth, and aside from all the heavy aspects of Felix Ever After, it’s a book which will keep you smiling and invested throughout.

“I was hurt this summer, hurt more than I thought I ever could be. It could’ve been easy to say I was hurt because I’m trans, because someone singled me out for my identity, but there’s something weird about that—something off, about suggesting that my identity is the thing that brought me any sort of pain. It’s the opposite. Being trans brings me love. It brings me happiness. It gives me power.” Ezra’s biting his lip as he grins at me. I shrug a little. “It makes me feel like I’m a god. I wouldn’t change myself for anything.”

And I can’t believe I have to ever end this review at one point, I want to talk about this book and praise it for eternity, but I will close it with this: I adored Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. It’s such a singular book, and when I say I want every single person in the world, especially queer, trans, and Black youth, to read it, I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. I saw myself in every part of it, as well—reading it felt like it was a book written exactly for me, and it even was, in a way. But, it’s also a book I had so much fun reading. I was smiling so hard throughout it, and so much things about this book gave me an endless joy – I have over 5 thousand words of quotes from it. This is one of the longest reviews I have ever wrote, and I hope it’ll convince you to read Felix Ever After if you haven’t yet. If it’s the only good thing I’d ever make out of being a book blogger, I’d be proud.

representation: Black queer demiboy main character (ownvoices) w/ biracial Black Bengali LI, gay Black biracial prominent character, lesbian prominent characters, gay prominent character, various other queer + POC characters

content warnings: homophobia, transphobia, racism, parental abuse and neglect, frequent drug and alcohol use

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Are you planning on reading this book? (I swear if you don’t I WILL be coming to your house)? Have you already read it, and if so, what did you think about it? Have you read any of Kacen Callender’s other books? Let’s talk about it in the comments! (also I’m just going to go ahead and tag Carol I’m sorry.)

33 thoughts on “ARC Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender // On Trans, Queer, and Black Identity and Why I Adored this Book So Much

  1. I’m so happy that you connected with this book so much, Faith!! You conveyed your feelings about this book so well in this review too 😍😍 Also, wow, that person who was against labels perfectly summed up my opinions on them lmao. Guess I have to pick it up now, because I haven’t even read it yet but I already feel represented by it :-))

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful review!! I recently just saw this book around on Twitter, and your review solidifed it on my TBR list! (Not to mention, that gorgeous illustrated cover.) There’s just something about a book that leaves you smiling and seen that just hits home. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Omg, I’m so glad you enjoyed–and I *loved* the quotes you shared with us. This gave me the push I needed to check if my e-library has it (it does!) and I have it bookmarked for once I finish NOT YOUR SIDEKICK! I am so so glad FELIX resonated with you, and I’ve heard so many good things, this just pushed me over the edge! Your love for this book is soooo wholesome ugh. I totally enjoyed THIS IS KIND OF AN EPIC LOVE STORY from them, so I’m pretty sure I’ll love FELIX too ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Vicky!! I’m so glad your library has it, I hope you love it 🥰 (Also I need to read Not Your Sidekick 👀) I haven’t read any of Kacen’s other books but I’ve been anticipating their middle grades ever since I read Felix!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I JUST FINISHED NOT YOUR SIDEKICK IT WAS SO CUTE AND WHOLESOME!!! and yes!!! i have felix in my inbox and am just waiting (1) more day so i can read it for my rainbowreadathon tbr hehehe

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Omg I’m so glad you liked it because I just read a short story of Lee’s and I loved it so much!! And since this is 4 days late (oops) have you started it yet???? How are you liking it??? I need to know this information 😤😤

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I started it last night!!! Felix’s story is painful sometimes, but I’m really loving it so far. Also….like… are Felix and that guy (his name starts with a D it’s escaping me is it like Declan?) gonna. ??? I HAVE QUESTIONS

        Liked by 1 person

  4. i am so, so happy you loved this, faith! i was considering checking this out from my library when it went into stock, but i’m really tempted to just purchase it (and i especially want to now, to support kacen as a black author). your review is so well-written, and it makes my heart burst to hear that you were able to feel so fully represented by felix and this book overall. and all the quotes you shared were absolutely amazing! thank you so much for sharing this beautiful book with us as well as your experiences 💗💗

    Like

  5. This post. It’s everything 🥺 I loved loved LOVED reading your review and I’m so happy that you connected to this book!! Now I need to get my hands on this 🤧. Also, I connect to what you say about coming to terms with your identity being a long process!! I’m not really out to like anyone but I figure this is kind of an anonymous comment section haha- I thought I was bi and now I’m pretty sure I’m queer but I’m not sure of any specific labels for myself- and this has only been going on for a year so I feel for all my queer siblings who are still questioning!! ALSO YES LABELS KIND OF STRESS ME. I think I’m bi? But am I pan? Or just neither?? Could I be straight or- 😭
    I’ve confused myself to the point of hating labels XD. This post was so! wonderful! and I really really hope to read this book soon.
    Also, hi!! I’m Aditi and thanks for following me XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Aditi!! And ughh what you said about labels is so relatable. (And it’s completely okay if you don’t know what you are right now or ever!!!!) I hope you get to read this soon, it’s such a good book!! And no problem your blog is 10/10 😤😤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is such a fantastic review! I have been hearing so much about this book, but having this own-voices review break down everything that this book did so well has sealed the deal for me! I will definitely have to check this book out, and I really hope that I will love it as much as you did!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I heard about this book a couple of days ago (I think it was on the Epic Reads FB page) and IMMEDIATELY added it to my TBR – I’m so glad it has your seal of approval! Can’t wait to get my hands on it 😍 I really appreciate that the book presents a more realistic family scenario (even though it sickens me that this is how things are with the majority of LGBTQ+ people trying to come out to their families) – almost every book I’ve read so far with a queer or trans teen has a family who loves and supports them unconditionally. And whilst it is a beautiful narrative, it’s not a realistic one and undermines the struggles and pain that LGBTQ+ teens actually face in real life.

    Looking forward to reading this wonderful and eye-opening book! 💛💛💛

    Liked by 1 person

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