This book was excellent. It fits comfortably in with other YA books in terms of subject matter and content, but it’s so well written it stands out from the pack and feels extremely original, like all things with specificity do.
Callender’s protagonist Felix is a trans boy going to a summer art school in NY city, and basically living with his best friend in an apartment his best friend’s wealthy but neglecting parents provide for him. Felix’s mom left when he was little, which is a big deal for him and something he still struggles with daily (a big part of the book are the emails he writes to her but never sends), and his relationship with his father is fraught. Even thought his father is supportive of Felix being trans and worked very hard to pay for Felix’s transition, his father is still not 100% comfortable giving up the idea of once having had a little girl, which understandably upsets Felix and drives a wedge between them. This is an example of the great way this book does all throughout in taking things that could be one-note and predictable and complicating them. Felix’s father means well and loves Felix a whole lot, but he’s not perfect, and they still have to work hard to be able to understand one another.
This also acts as a great queer coming of age novel, in that Felix is searching for himself, not only in learning what it means to be in love (a driving force for him) but also coming to terms with the fact that even though he came out as trans, his sexual identity and gender identity can still remain fluid. There is still more to discover.
The plot of this one ostensibly revolves around Felix catfishing a classmate after he is deadnamed in a cruel prank involving pictures of himself pre-transition being hacked and put up for everyone to see. Felix is determined to prove that his classmate was the one who hacked him, but what ends up happening, again like the rest of the book, is a lot more complicated than that. It’s sort of also a pseudo-mystery as Felix works to figure out which one of his classmates, maybe even so-called friends, is secretly transphobic.
I highly, highly recommend this one.