This book has gotten a fair amount of hype because it addresses some timely issues, and Callender actually won the National Book Award for another book they wrote in 2020. I am happy to be able to report that Felix Ever After absolutely lived up to the hype in my view.
Felix Love is a Black trans boy who feels a little lost and like an outsider amongst his group of friends, where he mostly considered his best friend Ezra the most important person in his life, and views the rest of their friend group as just people who happen to be around. In addition to feeling like an outsider, Felix laments the fact that he’s never been in love.
Felix and his friends have what is to me an insane amount of freedom for high school students. First, they live in New York City so they struggle less with lack of acceptance of their differences than kids in a lot of places do. But Ezra has his own apartment, and Felix often stays there, only going home to the apartment he shares with his dad every few days. And Ezra may randomly decide to have a party at 11pm on a school night, and other kids all show up. This wasn’t happening in my life as a seventeen-year-old.
A Personal Attack
Felix may be struggling a little socially, but his bigger problem is that someone tried to humiliate him by posting a bunch of old photos of him before his transition in the school’s gallery space, and also deadnamed him in the display. And presumably this same person is the one who’s harassing him on Instagram, accusing him of not being a real boy and not mattering at all.
He’s fixated on figuring out who made the display, which leads him into an odd online relationship (not really a relationship) where he’s exchanging message with a boy at the school he thought was an enemy and now sees is more complex than that. Felix starts wondering if he could love this boy. But the crazy part is that this boy has no idea who Felix is, so it’s weird and when he finds out, it’s not a good thing at all.
Who’s an Artist?
One important aspect of Felix’s life is that he’s a talented and skilled artist—the high school they all attend is a competitive art school—but it’s almost like he hasn’t fully embraced his identity as an artist, an idea that is never directly addressed but I thought was interesting. You often see a lot of artists at the beginning of their journey afraid to call themselves an “artist,” or just not thinking of themselves as “real artists” (writers do this, too). But with a little bit of encouragement, Felix really comes into his own with a series of self-portraits.
Gender Can Be Hard to Pin Down
The last major thing going on in this book has to do with his gender identity. It’s worth mentioning that Felix is far enough into his transition that he’s had top surgery and gets a weekly testosterone shot. So it is really interesting when he suddenly finds himself questioning his gender again. His understanding of gender was still a little simplistic in the beginning, sort of implicitly assuming the traditional binary, and he discovers that there are many more ways to be than he originally knew. He does figure out how he identifies near the end of the book and for the first time in his life, he’s 100% certain he’s got it right.
The way I’ve outlined that major storylines in the book probably makes it sound a bit choppy, but they all weave together seamlessly in the book. And everything comes to a happy resolution (which is still completely believable) at the end. It’s clear that Felix is in a much better headspace, social space, and romantic space by the end of the book, and it’s both interesting and enjoyable to watch him come into his own.