A Fantastic Debut
FELIX YZ by Lisa Bunker is a creative look at the difficulties of being in middle school, although the title character has challenges far beyond the typical thirteen-year-old.
With less than a month to go before The Procedure that could kill him, Felix Yz decides to start a blog/journal that details his thoughts leading up to the day of his possible death. Felix has spent ten years fused to a being from the fourth dimension after a lab accident that killed Felix’s father as well as combining Felix and *Zyxilef (or Zyx for short). Terrifying though that may sound, Zyx is a sweet and intelligent soul that acts as a sounding board for Felix, and although Zyx also takes over Felix’s body when moved by something (music and chess have that effect), there’s oddly nothing frightening about Zyx’s presence within Felix’s body.
The mild sci fi elements of FELIX YZ aren’t the only things that keep the book fresh and interesting. Felix has one of the most interesting cast of characters I’ve encountered in a while. Felix’s voice is both world-weary and young, and he combines smarts with naivety. In short, he’s wonderful. Zyx has a personality too, and although we don’t know if fourth dimension beings have genders, that’s okay because Felix’s gender fluid grandparent, Grandy, has solved the pronoun problem brilliantly by introducing vo, ven, veir, veirs, and veirself rather than he/she, him/her, his/her, his/hers, and himself/herself. It’s quite helpful throughout the book, and veir solid presence and great personality make Grandy or Vera/Vern (depending on the day of the week) one of my favorite adult characters in middle grades literature to date. The rest of Felix’s family is well developed too. His mom is both strong and vulnerable, and his sister is a musical genius with obvious love for her little brother.
FELIX YZ includes a coming-of-age element as Felix details the progress of his crush on Hector, a boy in Felix’s class who sees in Felix a kindred spirit, and Felix’s dealings with a bully who is relentless in his abuse. Felix’s focus in starting the blog is life and death, but as part of detailing his day-to-day existence, he obviously looks at many different aspects of thirteen-year-old life. The subtlety of Felix’s commentary on his challenges outside of the pending Procedure that may kill him and his wonderfully diverse family doesn’t make the lessons in the book any less powerful, and the low-key approach is perfect for the intended age group of the book. Ultimately FELIX YZ is a wise and beautiful story that combines humor with heartache, and it’s sure to keep the attention of readers of all ages. This is Lisa Bunker's first novel, and I cannot wait for her next one!
My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.