They say don’t judge a book by its cover but I have to admit I bought this book because of the cover first and the concept second. It’s truly a stunning piece of art, just like this book was!
Overall, this book scores a 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed it, and ultimately had very few issues with it! It’s the kind of own voices story we really need more of, and I’m so excited to read more from Kacen Callender in the future.
I found the plot of this book really interesting. It centres on trauma and healing in such a unique way, in a way that is very teenage, but for all the best reasons. The book centres around Felix Love, a trans teen in his last year of high school. He’s an artist, goes to a a special arts school, and wants to get into Brown University as much as he wants to be in love. At the start of the summer semester at his school, someone puts up a gallery in the front of the school with old photos and Felix’s deadname. The same person continues to harass and abuse Felix online through the whole book, and it’s kind of a mystery story in that we don’t find out who it is until it unravels right in front of us.
I think the story is super solid and interesting, I just wish Felix’s trauma was portrayed as less than a series of events to show and more as something he’s going through and is healing from. I also had an issue with the scene where Felix and Declan nearly have sex at his grandfather’s. The scene itself was fine, but I wish the topic of consent was talked about more as Declan’s behaviour was kind of skated over after he apologized. Sex doesn’t fix anything, and neither does trying to force it, and I wish that was discussed more. But otherwise, this book had a really gripping plot that I couldn’t tear myself away from!!
I also loved the end relationship between Felix and Ezra. I love a good best friends to lovers story, and their slowburn was so good and I think they’re absolutely amazing together!
I really loved Felix. I thought he was fiery and unapologetically so, and a real portrayal of a teen. He’s a fun, flawed character, and I think that’s brilliant and made him all the more fun to read about.
I also really liked all the side characters. They were so fully fleshed out and all meant something to the story. None of them felt like filler characters to add conflict or simply to present information, and it was really great to get to know all of them. They also felt very real in the same way Felix did, where none of them were perfect and they weren’t intensely exaggerated characterizations of real traits.
Style & Pacing
Callender’s writing is so nice. It’s pretty and descriptive without being overly so, or straying into purple prose territory. Their writing immediately drew me into the book, and has since made me so excited to read more from them as I just feel so comforted and in love with their writing style!
The pacing of this book was really great, too. Each scene and moment never missed a beat, and I was never bored with the book either. I really have only positive things to say about the prose and storytelling execution!
I truly loved this book. I would recommend it to anyone as it really beautifully told a queer story of pain and healing and resistance, and it was told with a lot of care and love. Like I said, I was never bored with this book and I thought it was just brilliant! I’ve already added more of Callender’s books to my to read list, and am looking forward to checking them out and following their journey as an author!