I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was a fortnight ago. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
First up, I’d like to talk about the amazing Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. Thank you so much to Bethany Carter at Faber Children’s for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Felix Love has never been in love – and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalisation too many – Black, queer and transgender – to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages – after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned – Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi-love triangle …
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself. Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognising the love you deserve.
Publication Date: 18th May
TW: transphobia, racism, public outing, homophobia, misgendering, deadnaming, online harassment, absent parent
Felix Ever After is one of those books that captures a part of your very soul. Calendar’s writing feels so effortless and captivating, drawing into the story with complex characters and authentic relationships.
I actually read this book for the first time last year, but after getting to return to it once more (due to it finally being published in the UK), I’ve discovered that this is one of those books that should be read over and over again.
Felix is a character whose voice burrows into your soul and won’t let you forget him and his wonderfully unique voice. He may not be perfect, but he is so humanely flawed and lovable all the same. His journey of self-discovery is still unfolding and Callender illustrates how it is an ongoing process that can always be changing and evolving.
The struggles he faces as he goes through the book are so despicable and awful, with the mystery element making you suspect everyone around him. It really speaks to the way language and history can be weaponised against marginalised groups, particularly when it is aimed on a personal level. Callender has created a book that will be so affirming for so many, but also delves into the darker and dangerous threats trans people face every day.
Despite the darkness of transphobia and racism that permeates this book, Callender allows for moments of sheer joy and levity. Felix’s found family is his source of light and hope amongst everything else. Their chemistry and witty dialogue was off the charts, making it feel like such a natural and believable group.
Felix Ever After just feels so honest, like a baring of Felix’s soul to the world. It’s a complex tale of self-discovery and identity struggles, but it is also ridiculously charming and heart-warming.
Next up, I’d like to talk about the phenomenal The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo. Thank you to Tor for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.
But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.
Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.
Publication Date: 1st June
TW: colonialism, racism, infidelity, abortion, death, murder
The Chosen and the Beautiful was such a gorgeous book that completely captured my imagination and wrapped me up in its silky cocoon.
This was a really interesting reimagining of The Great Gatsby, interrogating some of the events from the original text through a fresh new lens. It breathed new life into a classic tale and woven in some brilliant thematic commentary on social issues. Jordan Baker has always intrigued me as a character, but she’s often relegated to the shadows and forgotten in discussion of the original text. Here, she takes centre stage and we get her fascinating voice shining through. She’s a complex heroine, tangled in issues with her identity as a queer, Asian woman. I loved how the representation was discussed and heavily impacted how both Jordan interacted with the world and how the world around her viewed her.
The biggest draw of this book has to be the writing for me. It was magical and ethereal from the very start, completely immersing you in this gorgeously created world. I loved how it invites you to question the narrative and piece certain aspects together yourself, particularly using prior knowledge of the original text. It has this intangible quality to it that I was just utterly addicted to. The literary feel to it only adds to this rich atmospheric tapestry, with flowery touches that never felt overly grandiose. Information is often released at a slow pace, allowing the writing to just breathe and for you to relax into this vividly imagined world.
The Chosen and the Beautiful is a stunning book, with magic hidden in every page and a complex heroine at its heart. It provides a bold reimagining of a classic tale and invites you to weave together your own story from its pages.
Finally, I’d like to delve into the fascinating Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin. Thank you to St Martin’s Press for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
When Trixie picks up her best friend Lux for their weekend getaway, they’re looking to forget the despair of being trapped in their dead-end rustbelt town. The girls are packing light: a supply of Diet Coke and an ‘89 Canon to help Lux frame the world in a sunnier light; half a pack of cigarettes that Trixie doesn’t really smoke, and a knife she’s hanging on to for a friend that she’s never used before.
But a single night of violence derails their trip, and the girls go from ordinary high schoolers to wanted fugitives. Trying to stay ahead of the cops and a hellscape of media attention, Trixie and Lux grapple with an unforgiving landscape, rapidly diminishing supplies, and disastrous decisions at every turn. As they are transformed by the media into the face of a #MeToo movement they didn’t ask to lead, Trixie and Lux realize that they can only rely on each other, and that the love they find together is the one thing that truly makes them free.
Publication Date: 1st June
TW: sexual harassment, drug use, death, abuse, child sexual abuse
Trouble Girls is a primal scream disguised as a book. This dark and gritty tale reimagines the essence of Thelma and Louise into a modern day context to provide a searing tale that cuts to the bone.
The writing style is so addictive. Rubin’s style just made the pages fly past with an effortless mastery of tension and thrilling plot. I was buddy reading this with Theresa and I genuinely found it so difficult to stop reading at the assigned pages each day. The tension in both the plot and the relationships is pushed to its very limits. The plot often moves at breakneck speed with little warning, with plot twists flying thick and fast. This creates an atmosphere where Trixie and Lux can often only truly rely on each other, ramping up the personal tensions even further.
Their fun road trip quickly turns into a nightmarish exploration of rape culture, particuarly a culture that revolves around victim-blaming. Both Trixie and Lux are all too familiar with the failings of the system and how it often fails to protect the very victims it claims to be at its heart. This is a dark and unflinching exploration of the topic, so I would recommend checking the trigger warnings before reading. Rubin leaves some room for hope in an ambiguous and open-ended conclusion that leaves their ultimate fate down to your imagination.
Trouble Girls is an intense, thrilling read that does not shy away from confronting the dark truth of social issues. It provides a raw and committed tale that you cannot tear yourself away from.