Felix Love is seventeen, a talented artist attending a selective New York art school. His main ambition is to secure admission to Brown University, Rhode Island, by winning a scholarship. Felix was born a girl, though he is now known to everyone as a boy. In fact his former female life is something he carefully conceals. He has never been in love. The book describes Felix’s struggle to find love in whatever form it may take. He must also learn to command acceptance, not least by defining his own gender identity.
Callender’s novel is unusual, mounting an examination in depth of the emotions an individual may experience during the process of gender transition. The author himself has made just this transition. Accordingly he is in a position to provide a detailed account of the transitional process and its attendant complications. He also shines a revealing light on the question of family acceptance during transition, and on the danger of receiving abusive mail.
Felix is in fact part of three minorities in the USA, also being black and gay. Callender’s book will stimulate a range of active discussion, not only because of its central theme but also because it features profane language and drug taking, giving the impression that both are a normal part of art school life. It is persuasive to argue that the inclusion of these features is no more than realistic. But teachers and parents should be aware of these features before handing the book to an impressionable young reader. The 14+ categorisation should also be strictly respected.