Sunday, April 16, 2017

Arc Review: Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker. 286 p. Viking/ Penguin Young Readers Group, June 6, 2017. 9781524775254. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

This book is Felix Yz's (pronounced "iz") blog. He's counting down the days to Zero Day when he will undergo "the Procedure" where he will be separated from Zyx (rhymes with six). Zyx is an alien from the fourth dimension who was accidentally fused with Felix when he was three-year-old in a science experiment gone horribly wrong. His scientist father was killed in the accident and Felix was in a coma for quite a while. He lives with his mother, sister and Grandy, a grandparent who is gender fluid. Grandy spends three days a week identifying as female and goes by the name Vera. Then she spends three days a week identifying as male and answers to the name Vern. On the seventh day, "vo stays in veir room and doesn't eat and doesn't talk and doesn't wear any clothes and meditates all day." (p. 19)

Felix is understandably, very worried about the Procedure. If he does not have it, he and Zyx will die. If he does, there's a good chance one or both of them will die. He types in his blog, which is secret, to sort out his feelings about all this. He likes Zyx (mostly) despite the fact that their fusion results in Felix's inability to communicate normally as well as some fine and gross motor difficulties. All of which make him a target for bullying at school.

Felix is an endearing character and his voice is at once wholly unique and so like a twelve-year-old. He pours his heart out, then dances around painful topics only to circle back again. Interspersed in his musings and reveries are Zyx's comments. Zyx learned English, more or less, thanks to Grandy's running commentary as she sat vigil beside Felix while he was in a coma. 

There is so much grief here. Felix and his family are close and loving and as fragile as they are strong. Were I to enumerate all the "issues" this wondrous tale covers, you'd be rolling your eyes. Yet, somehow, it works. There's a first crush, mom's boyfriend, Grandy, a sister's loss, chess, webcomics, a comic con, and more, packed into the 29 days before Felix's separation from Zyx. 

And then there's Zyx - a being trapped in an alien dimension struggling to understand his human and humanity. He? She? Felix settles on the pronoun "vo" becaue Zyx cannot be fully described. He is incapable of understanding sarcasm and loves Felix unconditionally. 

There will be tears folks. Many, many tears. Not ugly crying but a steady stream of tears to blink away while trying to read towards the end. It's achingly beautiful. Thoughtful readers will come away changed by Felix, Zyx and all the possibilities. Please don't miss this unique and utterly compelling debut.

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