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Review of Felix Yz

Felix Yz
by Lisa Bunker
Intermediate, Middle School    Viking    283 pp.
6/17    978-0-425-28850-4    $16.99

Thirteen-year-olds may sometimes seem like alien creatures, but how often do you meet one with an actual alien inside? Meet Felix Yz (pronounced like “is”). When Felix was three, his scientist father was vaporized in a lab accident and Felix himself “got fused at the atomic level with a hyperintelligent being from the fourth dimension” named Zyx (rhymes with “six,” and is short for Zyxilef, Felix Yz spelled backward). As a result, Felix has trouble talking, his limbs jerk, and his body is contorted into a hunched-over position (the cover story for outsiders is that he suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child). As the novel opens, there are twenty-nine days to go until ZeroDay, when scientists will attempt to separate Felix and Zyx in a procedure that may either help Felix or kill him. For as long as Felix can remember, he and Zyx have literally been inseparable. How will he be different without Zyx? In the novel, Zyx is real, but readers may see in him a metaphor for anything that makes people feel different, and may start to question what is and isn’t “normal.” When Felix asks whether Zyx is “a girl fourth-dimensional alien or a boy fourth-dimensional alien,” Zyx’s reply is “question mark.” Felix has a crush on cute classmate Hector; he doesn’t know if Grandy is his grandmother or grandfather because vo (Grandy’s invented nongendered pronoun) alternates between Vern and Vera during the week. The novel’s premise allows for fascinating reflections on these and many other ways of feeling different, and debut author Bunker pulls it off with little heavy-handedness.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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