Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review: Luna by Julie Ann Peters

Title: Luna
Author: Julie Ann Peters
Series: N/A
Pages: 248
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Date Published: February 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Library

Regan's brother Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, 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.

My Review:
Luna is a very complicated and emotionally charged novel that deals with some very tough issues. When I went to my very large public high school (over 6000 kids) from a middle school where each grade had 72 students, I had quite the culture shock. I had to deal with ALL kinds of kids from the rich to the poor, the pretty to the not so pretty, and all sorts of different sexual orientations. I'll tell you, there were a lot of uncomfortable moments as I discovered each new kind of person and dealt with who they were, particularly those who were VERY gay or transsexual. My background was a tiny, all-white, catholic school. Not the place that really harbors diversity and openness of sexual orientation. I'll definitely could have used a book like Luna to help me understand the thoughts and just...idea of being transsexual because I definitely struggled dealing with things like that in school. All said and done, when I made it out of high school, I had made some of the best friends of my life, and quite a few of them were gay. This kind of book could have helped me foster friendships with them

Luna, as the synopsis tells us, is a book about Luna/Liam. Luna was born in the body of a boy but has always identified as a female. She starts trying on her sister's clothes and makeup and eventually progresses to wearing a full-female look. Her sister Regan is confused and distraught by the change and feels like she's losing her brother. The family is very traditional and even though mom never showed her disdain for Liam's choices, Dad has made it painfully obvious that being different is not okay, making Luna/Liam's life very stressful and traumatic. Luna's journey is so full of heartbreak and confusion that it makes you want to cry in a ball in the corner.

My favorite part of the book was how realistic it seemed. I know that a lot of families, (particularly very religious ones or those from Smalltown, USA) would have a difficult time with a gay or transsexual child. It's really sad, but a lot of the times families don't have the happily ever after where everyone comes to terms with the person's sexual orientation. Sometimes a family kicks the person out. Other times things get violent as fathers try to beat some sense into their "nancy boy" sons. I loved that when Luna/Liam finally stepped out fully as a transgender, things were not peaches and cream with all of his family and friends.  He has to deal with hostility, denial, and serious cruelty on the part of his father. All I can say is that I am so glad I've never had to deal with anything like that...though actually now that I mention it, I feel like because of this book and similar stories I would probably be better able to deal with a child of my own being transgender.

One thing I was bothered by was that it was narrated by Regan, the sister of Liam/Luna and not actually Luna herself. It could have been because this was kind of a ground breaker in YA literature and the publishers or Ms. Peters weren't comfortable publishing something with a trans narrator, but I feel like it lost something by viewing the world through Regan's eyes. For one thing...she seems overly critical of her brother/sister and you STILL don't understand exactly what is going on inside Luna's head. This made Regan kind of an unlikeable character for me. You can tell she is trying to be a good sister, but it just seems like  what she cares about most is if SHE is happy, if SHE is popular...not if her brother/sister is struggling with a self identity crisis and suicide. I was shocked and appalled by how she treated Liam after he was discovered cross dressing on a babysitting job. She literally says something along the lines of the cliched "I wish you had never been born" thing, which is NOT something you want to say to your sibling who has already tried to commit suicide twice.  Regan was not my favorite, but since the story was more about Liam/Lia Marie/Luna than her, I was okay with that.

The dynamic between the siblings was weird. I have never in my life met two characters who need each other so badly. They practically feed off of each other. Liam provides rides, science homework, and constant pressure to accept who he/she is. Regan provides a cover, clothing, makeup, and someone to walk around in the mall with. But there was no...closeness...no love. It was almost as if each character was using the other to benefit their own goals or guilted the other into doing what they wanted. Regan is also the only one who knows Liam's secret, that he is actually a transvestite on the verge of making her transition into the body, life, and mind of Luna.

I give Luna 4 Keys. Though very well written, it troubled me. The horrible family dynamics and the seeming dislike between almost all of the members of the family made me feel cold and depressed instead of hopeful and uplifted. While this is realistic and lends itself the the hate and discrimination that is often faced by members of the gay community,  I feel like the hate, confusion, and just plain failure to understand on Regan's part would lead to insecurity for actual transgender teens who want to start coming out. If this is what their own siblings would think about them, how could they ever get the courage to actually transition? I think it is important for transgendered people to have a voice in literature..I'd just like it to be a strong voice. And a voice that actually IS transgender so that it is relateable. The Luna at the end of the book was more of that strong character I was looking for, she was just buried under a muddle of confusing and sad layers.  A very good read in general, and for those who are interested in the complexities of family dynamics, transgender relationship, and just plain sibling bonding. 


  1. This book has definitely been on my radar for a while. I am a little bit disappointed that this is not told from Liam/Lina's point of view. That being said, I do still want to read this.

    Great review, Andra!

  2. I've seen this book at the local library and thought it looked interesting, though from your review it seems like a harder read than it looks like at first. That probably makes it an even more worthwhile read, though, because it comes closer to truly portraying how hard it is for people with "different" orientations to open up in a society that generally looks down on them. I do wish the book was from Liam/Luna's point of view, though. While it's important for all perspectives on the subject to be expressed, YA literature from the POV of transgenders seems to be almost completely absent.

    Thanks for the review!

  3. Hm, I don't know. I haven't read Luna, but for myself, I think it's likely I'd be interested in the perspective of someone who was witness to someone dealing with transgender issues because that's what it would be for me. In that way, and perhaps out of pure selfishness, I'd be better able to relate to the MC. Maybe that's the point, though? Transgender issues are tricky because it's still a pretty taboo topic, and there's got to be merit in a book that tackles the issue on a teenage level at all.

  4. Great review. So professional. The story sounds good but a depressing family structure is just sad.

  5. by the way you've been awarded: http://itchingforbooks.blogspot.com/2012/07/ive-been-awarded.html

  6. I have been wanting to read this for a long time. Thanks for a great review! I still really want to read it but I'm bummed to see that it is not from Luna's perspective.