FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender is a delightfully queer YA love story. It starts off a little corny (I mean, the main character’s name is Felix Love) and devolves into cruel deceptions at first. But then it dives deep into questions of gender identity, friendship, and love.
This book shows an incredible depth of insight into what it’s like to be a gender-questioning teen. I love how Felix is proud of being visibly trans. His top surgery scars show through his tank tops in the summer heat, and he’s out to everyone he knows.
Set in New York City, complete with subway rides and drinking in the park, the book explores Felix’s journey as a Black, queer, trans teenager navigating relationships, along with a diverse group of acquaintances at his art school.
I loved the scenes from a gender identity discussion group at the LGBT center. It felt so familiar to hear characters discuss the frustration of prescribed gender roles in society in long, theoretical rants, kindly abbreviated for the readers.
Relationships between various genders are accepted automatically in this queer community of art students. Even in the struggle to find out who is right for each other, it was beautiful to see that gender does not play a role. Also, it was less about finding “the one” and more about realizing true feelings about others.
Transphobic bullying and lack of acceptance is a major thread in this book. It’s written from the perspective of someone who understands how hurtful this bullying might be.
Watching the characters mature and discover more of their own identities and self-confidence was gratifying. I was rooting for (almost) everyone by the end.
I really appreciated the understanding of gender identity and the intersection with race and class that Callender brought to these characters. This was a meaningful, powerful, yet fun book that I highly recommend.