FELIX EVER AFTER was a really, really good book. It's a story about questioning your identity, writing secret letters, first loves, secret cruelties, calling out harassment and bigotry, and educating loved ones-- oh, and art, New York, and coming of age. Basically, it's a hodge-podge of everything I love about YA, handled really maturely, and with a really great message to boot.
Felix is a trans boy who has never been in love but would like to be. He's also an art student with big dreams, and a group of friends who he mostly likes, although they can be annoying. In liberal New York, he's mostly accepted but he still runs into bigots-- like his TERF "friend" who says he's a misogynist for transitioning from "female" to male and giving into the patriarchy, or the bigot who deadnames him and posts a gallery of photos from his Instagram taken pre-transition.
The secret bigot harasses him on Instagram, trying to tell him that he's a girl and damage his self-worth. The things the bully says are incredibly cruel and Felix is understandably devastated and enraged, and he decides he's going to figure out who they are and ruin them. He already has one suspect, the ex-boyfriend of his BFF who inexplicably seems to hate both their guts. But the more that Felix talks to him, under an assumed identity, the more he actually -gulp- starts to like him.
I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to spoil things, but I liked that I never knew what was going to happen. I also liked that Felix started out as really prickly, but as the story progresses we get to know the real him as he figures himself out. I liked the message about how even loved ones can screw up and it's important to forgive even as you hold them accountable, and how bigots should be called out so they can't continue to harass on the sly. I loved the message that you can continue to question your whole life, and how identity is this ever-evolving thing that belongs to you alone, and the power that naming yourself gives you when you find a label that is you.
There's a lot of YA that condescends to its audience so I'm always really excited when I find a mature work that deals out realistic problems with realistic people and dialogue that sounds like real teens speaking. Real teens make mistakes and sometimes do reckless things, but real teens can also surprise you with their insightfulness and their passions. When I was a teenager, I definitely saw myself as a very ~mature~ individual, and I think a lot of teens probably feel the same way and like to see reflections of their almost-adult self in fiction. FELIX EVER AFTER perfectly captures what it means to be growing up and having everything change, caught mid-glide on that journey of endless possibility.
4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars