Book Review: Luna by Julie Anne Peters

| Jul 30, 2018
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This month, we go back into the world of “Young Adult” (YA) books. That’s the new term for “Teen.” Because they needed one. I guess. In any case, the book in question is Luna by Julie Anne Peters. What makes this book a little different than the previous YA books I’ve reviewed is that it was published in 2004. It was the first young adult novel to prominently feature a transgender character and suggest that being transgender wasn’t just being “REALLY gay.”

The socio-political atmosphere for transgender people back then was far different. We were still regarded as sideshow freaks (and featured on shows like Jerry Springer, Maurie Povich, And Geraldo.) Oh wait — we still are. Just check the comment section on any transgender related article online.

From the publisher:

LunaRegan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female name, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change: Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives?
Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance.

In many ways, this is a book of its time. Some of the bits in it, well, they were fine for the day, but now come off as a touch offensive. First off, it’s not from Luna’s point of view. It’s from Regan’s — the cisgender younger sister. She sees her “brother” as being strange: “a freakshow.” The names she calls him by keep changing back and forth through the book as if she can’t keep them straight. The POV is problematic to begin with, but as the book progressed, Luna became more stereotypical of what cispeople expected a transgender person back in that day (and even now.) To Regan, being trans was all about the clothes and makeup, etc.

What really grated on me was the whining — we’re supposed to feel bad for Regan because having a transgender sibling is “ruining her life” by having to cover for her “abnormalities.” Regan is a high school kid — I get that — but she’s so wrapped up in her own drama and self-pity to see that Luna is going through a crisis. After a slumber party, her friends think Luna is gay, and they abandon Regan. She doesn’t defend Luna, just lets them think what they wish. Also, Regan doesn’t bother jumping on the internet or going to the library to learn more about what’s happening. No, she’d rather stew in her ignorance. In many ways (spoiler!) it’s amazing that Luna survives this book.

The most “realistic” depiction in this book is of the parents. They are a typical affluent white family. Father, who works at Sears, sees his “son” feminizing in look and behavior, and does his best to help him “man up.” He thinks Luna may be gay. Can’t have that can we? Horrors! Father wants his family to be cookie cutter traditional. He is bothered by his wife making more than him, expects his daughter to cook and clean, etc. As with many fathers of M to F transgender daughters, he doesn’t want to deal with the child’s willingness to surrender their masculinity.  Sound familiar to anyone?

Mother is a horror story. She’s too busy running her wedding planning business to care at all about her family. Because of this, Regan and Luna split chores. Okay, happens a lot. But mother is doping herself up on meds. She doesn’t notice that her estrogen keeps disappearing. And the kicker is — she knows Luna is transgender, and always has. She just chose to ignore it, as it would make HER life more complicated. Mother has completely checked out of the family.

Luna has a friend, Aly. Aly has a crush on “him,” and, despite being best friends, Luna doesn’t reveal her Truth to her until late in the plot. Some may say that wasn’t a “friend” thing to do, but Luna was afraid of the rejection it may cause. And she was right — Aly doesn’t want to accept Luna being transgender because she wants that storybook relationship with “him.”

Luna’s other connection, and the most important minor character in the story, is Teri Lynn. When Luna decided that she wants to transition, she did some research (see? It could be done!) and found Teri Lynn. Teri Lynn had already gone through the surgeries involved with transition, and became a mentor to Luna.

Something that didn’t hit me at first, but became more prominent as the plot progressed was the dedication. Sounds, strange, right?

In memory of Fred C. Martinez Jr, (Beyonce) 1985-2001

Beyonce was brutally murdered at 16. A 2011 article on the murder (ten years later) refers to her as “a boy.” She was brutally murdered, and her killer bragged about it. The movie Two Spirits is about this case. What bothered me is that the author knew of the danger a transgender teen faced, yet still focused the book on the sister’s drama. I guess that the choice was because of the thought a “typical” reader would be put off by a transgender narrator.

I’m glad this book was published, as it was a great first step. For many, it was the first view they had about transgender people. I just wish it were more accurate. I would prefer Alex Gino’s George or Ami Polonsky’s Gracefully Grayson, both of which are far more accurate, and, really, better books.

Julie Anne Peters Luna 9780316011273

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Category: Product Review, Transgender Opinion

Sophie Lynne

About the Author ()

Read Sophie's blog here. View her contribution to The New York Times transgender stories article. She has also been featured in an article on Philly.com.

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  1. besweet besweet says:

    Finally made it through the very convoluted sign-on/password change system that protects all the TGforum military secrets. Whew! Way too labyrinthian for this long-time, regular reader whereas all I wanted to do is to leave a word of encouragement for you, Sophie. My mission to reply goes back to the column you wrote upon your being dismissed from your most recent employment. You were way off base in your self-assessment and way off base to demean yourself the way you did. The fools in this case were your employers who, obviously have not a shred of backbone, failed to support you against the shabby treatment you were receiving at the hands of the idiots who deal it. You do have your full set of brains. You are one of the most articulate writers who offer their works to this forum. I look forward to your reports. Keep up the good work! LYNDA

    • angela_g angela_g says:

      Sorry entering the site has to be so hard but without that protection we would be overrun with crooks trying to hack the site.