"It's easier, sometimes, to love when you know it's a love you can't have." A trans love story for Young Adults. Ages 16+.
This is the story of a 17-year-old trans boy called Felix Love. Felix wants to be loved and to be in love. He is painfully aware of the irony of his name, having never been in a steady relationship or felt what is like to be in love.
Felix is in his final year at a private specialist art school in New York. It's the summer before college and he is completing extra credit classes, alongside his best friend, Ezra, and several other classmates. Felix's best friend Ezra is a wonderful character who I warmed to immediately. He is a great listener who continually raises Felix up and reminds him that he shouldn't have to apologise for who he is or accept even the seemingly minor transgressions that others make about his identity.
Although he goes to a private school, Felix is not rich: his father works all the hours he can to be able to afford the fees. So Felix is dependent on a scholarship if he has any hope of getting into college, but he isn't the only one. Rich kid Declan is also trying to get the same scholarship to Brown University and, as Ezra's ex-boyfriend, Felix and he do not like each other.
At home, it is just Felix and his dad. His mother left them several years before and has still not been in contact, so Felix writes emails to her that he never sends. And while Felix's father supported him physically transitioning, he still mixes up his pronouns and refuses to call Felix by his chosen name, even, occasionally, getting drunk and telling him he will always be his 'little girl', despite Felix coming out as a trans boy. To make matters worse, Felix isn't even sure if he is a boy! While he no longer feels like a girl, he isn't entirely sure he feels like a boy all the time either.
What with worrying about finding love, finishing his portfolio for college, being angry with his father, continuing to struggle with his identity and writing hundreds of emails to his absentee mother, Felix has a lot going on. And then someone posts his pre-transition pictures and his deadname all over the school foyer and begins to send him transphobic messages via Instagram.
This is a complex YA novel and it initially took me a while to orient myself, but it was a very rewarding read. I also struggled initially to warm to Felix as a character. His initial response to the transphobic attack is to create a fake Instagram account, so that he can befriend and trick the person that he thinks did it into revealing their deep dark secrets which Felix intends to share with the whole school. This revenge storyline, coupled with Felix's tendency to be judgmental about everyone around him, including his best friend, made it difficult for me to like him at first.
However, as the story progresses we see Felix learn lots of lessons about himself and others from the consequences of his actions. He also learns that perhaps he is not the only person struggling with his identity. Identity is a fluid and evolving state for everyone, but particularly for teenagers, as they begin to discover who they are or who they want to be. Felix also learns to accept that he is worthy and deserving of love, but that he can only really let love into his life when he learns to love and accept himself. Despite the rocky start, by the end of this book I was sad to leave Felix and his life behind.
Kacen Callendar also managed to make this book educational about trans issues in a very natural way. We learn about the horrific low life expectancy of trans people of colour due to the ever-present threats of physical violence against them, of the trans women who began the Stonewall riots and the issues that trans people have faced within the LGBTQIA+ community. All of these subjects were raised naturally and added to rather than interrupted the narrative. Felix Ever After is the first book by Kacen Callendar that I have read but it certainly won't be the last.