Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Forward: LUNA, by Julie Anne Peters

It's Friday, and boy, do I have some catching up to do! I missed a couple weeks while I was busy at writing conferences and making videos about cupcakes, but from now on, I promise to be more vigilant about my Friday reviews - as well as with the rest of my online life!

This week's Friday Forward was a book club pick from last month: LUNA, by Julie Ann Peters. Here's the blurb from Goodreads and Amazon: 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.

This book was a real eye-opener, and on the heels of Presidential debates that (barely) touched on issues like gay rights and gender equality and a very informative vlog by the Hank half of the Vlogbrothers, it came at a good time for me: a time when I was interested in learning more about transsexuality from the viewpoint of a transsexual, and also interested in learning about what it looks like from a closer but still external viewpoint. Told from the perspective of a transsexual male-to-female's younger sister, this book informs on both those levels, which is an extremely tough thing to do.

I have to honestly say that I found the introduction of Luna's transsexuality and her sister Regan's conflicting feelings about it to be a little heavy-handed at the beginning. I loved the opening scene in which we first meet Luna and learn that Luna by night is Liam by day, but the moments after that when Regan remembers their childhood and wonders when little Liam first showed signs of identifying as a female felt like more overt backstory than I really needed. Additionally, Liam spent a lot of time at the beginning getting down on himself and crying and generally expressing how much he wanted to break free, and while I can't make any claims AT ALL to know how it really feels to literally be in the wrong body - I'm sure it is every bit as horrible as Liam says it is, and then some - strictly for the purpose of telling the story, I would have gotten more deeply into this story and found Regan's character more relatable if there were a scene or two less of that. The first time Liam said that Luna wanted to break free, I understood exactly what she meant, and it irked me that it took several more scenes of that for Regan to clue in.

That said, I did eventually get really into this book. I loved the extreme contrast between Regan and Luna's parents and the parents Regan babysits for, and the irony that Luna got stuck with a set of parents who are so extremely conservative and traditional and badly suited to dealing with a child who doesn't slot nicely into society's idea of "normal". Then the reaction of the parents Regan babysits for when they do find out that Liam is really Luna really highlights just how difficult it is for people who are transgender to find acceptance in the world. The scenes at the end between Luna and her best friend Alyson are honest and heart wrenching and one of the best parts of the book.

Additionally, Regan has a lot going on in her own life, and there was a good balance between moving Regan's story forward and letting us see how in a lot of ways, she was held back by feeling like she had to hide so much of her private life from her friends.

I came away from this book feeling like I understand transgendered people a little better, and also feeling like I have a few more tools in the box that will help me behave in a more sympathetic and understanding way when I meet people who are transgender. And for that alone, it's worth the read.

You can find Luna in bookstores now, or pick up a copy online at Amazon here or preferably at Indiebound here or (if you live in Canada) at ChaptersIndigo here.

Happy Reading!


  1. sounds very interesting and unusual and could be quite educational.

  2. Great review, Ishta and your opening statement really made me giggle. Making broad sweeping statements about online intentions. I'll check out your vlogs over the weekend.