This review contains minor spoilers
Have you ever read a book that you keep coming back to and enjoy but at the same time, you keep wishing you could read it for the first time again and experience the emotions you had previously felt? For me, Kacen Callender's Felix Ever After fits the description perfectly.
As a black, transgender and gay demi boy, Felix's story delves into issues of identity and self-discovery through an intersectional lens, giving a nuanced and honest account.
The book begins at a point when Felix has already discovered parts of who he is. Yet, he struggles with a niggle he could never coherently put into words but only feel, vividly describing how amorphous gender identity can be. Reaching a conclusion after having questioned for a long time, only to go back to questioning again, may lead to complicated emotions, such as "was I faking it all along?" But finding a label today does not mean you cannot have a different one tomorrow. And you can never be an imposter for merely going deeper into your journey. Labels exist for comfort and not for tying you into the opposite. And Callender presents this beautifully.
Felix says things he regrets moments later. He ends up making careless mistakes and lies. He is not a perfect character whose only purpose is to be black, gay and trans. Instead, he is just another teenager who happens to be black, gay and trans. There is a balance between the specific issues that need attention as a result of his marginalized identities while never being reduced to them. And it is probably this portrayal of Felix in his full humanity that makes many like him feel seen.
The last chapter of the book goes into scenes of a pride parade, ending on an empowering and loving note. And perhaps, that's what pride really is all about. Being anything other than what society tells you to be may come with a set of challenges that nobody should have to go through. But despite that, being able to embrace who you are is a matter of liberation and joy that deserves celebration.
At one point, Felix says, "I have a right to exist." Callender's multi-dimensional and evocative piece compels one to wonder: why do some people believe otherwise?