Felix’s dream is to be loved and get into a specific art school, but when someone posts pictures of him before his transition, along with his deadname, for the whole school to see, he comes up with a plan for revenge.
Spoiler Free Review:
Content Warnings: transphobia (outing, deadnaming, online harassment), swearing, drinking & drug use, catfishing
I wanted to absolutely adore this book because I’ve seen nothing but praise for it, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The elements I liked, I really loved, but there were just a few things that I couldn’t get past.
One thing that immediately shocked me was the amount of swearing in this book. Swearing doesn’t bother me at all, but this is YA and the characters were dropping f-bombs multiple times a page. There was also a ton of casual drinking and smoking. I think this story would be great for younger kids to read, but because of all the swearing and drinking, I don’t know if it would be appropriate. The characters are all around the age of 17, I believe. It definitely felt more like these characters were college age, especially because they could just go all over the city and not see their parents for weeks at a time.
This book is set in New York City, which is fine, but there were just so many mentions of street names, subway stops, and neighborhoods that mean absolutely nothing to me. As someone who has always lived in a fairly rural/suburban area, all these references just went way over my head.
The biggest thing that I just didn’t enjoy was the friendship/romantic drama. Everything just felt so petty to me a lot of the time. There were conflicts over the smallest of things or a small comment that someone should have just apologized for. Also, the catfishing in this book went on far longer than I would have liked.
My absolutely favorite part of this book was Felix’s journey. When the book begins, he identifies as a transboy, but knows that there is something a little off about that label. Throughout the book, he questions his identity and labels in general. There are so many people around him that show him that questioning, at any point in your life or for your whole life, is valid. There was also discussions around labels, how they are confining to some people, but to others, they bring comfort.
Felix’s mother left him and his dad for a new life when he was a kid, so Felix definitely has some abandonment issues. Because of this, I thought there was a really strong sense of found family in this book, and how important it is to surround yourself with people that care about you for who you are.
This book also had a huge array of different characters. There were different ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, family backgrounds, ect.
Felix is in school for art and wants to go to a specific art school, which is one of my least favorite tropes, but I didn’t really have any feeling either way about the art in general. It kind of felt secondary to the relationships and self-identity.
The romance in this book was also neutral for me. It didn’t feel formulaic at all to me, but I didn’t feel a strong emotional connection to the relationship.
Felix has a pretty complicated relationship with his dad. His dad was super supportive of his transition, but still can’t call him by Felix. Felix gets really upset about this, which is understandable, but he never really tries to talk to his dad about it, so there’s no way he can know what his dad is thinking. I found this pretty frustrating, but it does eventually get resolved.
I appreciate this book for all the things I loved about it, but the things I disliked definitely put a damper on it. I am glad that this book is getting so much love and praise though, because I think it’s an important story. In the book, Felix didn’t know how to describe how he felt as being trans until he read a book about it. Kacen said in the author’s note that they hope that other people also are able to learn about themselves in a similar way by reading this book, and I wholeheartedly agree.