Felix Ever After is a novel of immense potential – it’s a shame, then, when poor execution and offbeat plot progression dim most of it.
Kacen Callender’s young adult novel presents the story of a Black, queer, transgender boy who falls victim of an anonymous hate crime. An unidentified student plasters photos of Felix pre-transition on the school walls. Along with his confidant Ezra, he comes up with a plan to seek revenge – catfishing his suspected culprit. In what begins as a plan to uncover their darkest secret, Felix finds himself in uncharted territory instead – love.
Ezra and Felix’ initial friendship. Felix has at least one true friend in this book – Ezra, who always has his back. They also have great friendship chemistry that offers plenty of entertaining and funny moments in the book.
The whodunit of the gallery. The author does a great job of throwing diverse red herrings related to Felix’s tormentor. It makes for an interesting question mark looming over our character’s head that transforms into a character in itself.
The romantic tension between Lucky (Felix) and Declan. The growing romance between the two characters makes for an invigorating execution of the enemies to lovers trope. Their school interactions as a result were of high tension and exciting.
Bonus point: The twist surrounding Declan’s grandfather. The man from the first chapter turning out to be Declan’s grandfather was an unexpected twist. It made for an entertaining ‘a-ha’ moment. It was also a satisfying full circle moment, that gave the reader the opporunity to revisit the book’s first chapter.
Felix is not a likeable protagonist. The protagonist often guilt-trips people over their financial stability. Although he realizes this flaw, he seldom stops acting this way. His treatment of his father is also problematic. A single, low-earning father who not only pays for his son’s gender reassignment surgery, but also accompanies him to his hormone treatments deserves more respect than Felix gives him. Sure he’s not perfect, but he’s worlds beyond what most trans youth get out of a parent.
Bonus: His unbelievable and sudden character development. The exact moment Felix finds out about the identity of his bully, he drops his vendetta against them. It is almost as if his anger had been completely tranquilized by an outside force. What’s more, the following chapters present Felix’s internal thoughts highlighting how much he’s changed. Not only is this repetitive, but it goes against the main rule of writing – show, don’t tell.
The romance between Ezra and Felix is forced. Little to no signs point to these two having feelings for each other, especially not Felix. Yet shortly after Felix finds out Ezra does have a crush, he quickly realizes his own love for him. This not only feels cheap, but it diminishes the value of the friendship built up prior.
The almost instantaneous disposal of the Declan/Felix romance. After Declan forgives Felix for catfishing him, they visit Declan’s grandfather. There, Felix realizes how his feelings for Declan were a sham. As quickly as the actual romance begins, it ends. Why? For the reason that the author wants Felix to end up with Ezra – even though Felix was head over heels for Declan’s way of thinking and also was attracted to him. Excluding the last 70 pages, that kind of attraction was nowhere to be seen for Ezra.
GrandeQueen69 reveal and the winner of the gallery showcase. The way we uncover the identity of Felix’s tormentor was anti-climactic and borderline absurd. Considering how dedicated Felix was with identifying them, this reveal felt disappointing. The same problem occurs when we find out that Felix had won the artist showcase spot at the end-of-the-summer gallery. The reveal is at most one sentence long and almost immediately follows the information that Felix actually participated. Unfortunately, the book suffers substantially when it comes to the shoehorning of various plot points.
The friend group. With certain members being toxic towards Felix, it makes one wonder why he was in the circle in the first place. This also makes for a serious question one must answer on their own – does the problematic behavior of Marisol and Austin make for unnecessary violent dialogue against trans youth and hurt the book and thereby its trans readers, or does it help its complexity by underlining how even those who seem tolerant can fake being so?
How Felix finds his new identity. Our protagonist visits an LGBTQ+ support center several times, attends support groups and has queer acquaintances. So why is a large question of his identity answered by him reading a Tumblr post? It’s yet another shoehorn the book doesn’t need. One could argue that it’s how some people learn about themselves – which is true. But in a work of entertainment, it’s not the most intriguing execution of a central plot point.
Even though Felix Ever After presents moments of greatness through the initial friendship of our two main characters, a fascinating whodunit and an intoxicating, bubbling forbidden romance, it almost always flattens these peaks later on. And it’s almost always through resolutions that either come too early in the story or don’t get enough attention. The result is a work of great ideas oftentimes executed poorly.