Luna by Julie Anne Peters

My first experience with Julie Anne Peters was during the last read-a-thon. I read Between Mom and Jo, a book that dealt with the subject of same sex parents and their son. I knew after I read that book that I wanted to read everything that she had written. She handled lesbian issues perfectly in that book, never denying how they can affect others…never denying the hurt and the pain that comes with the acceptance of who one is and living the life that’s true to one’s self. She does the same with this amazing book,Luna, which turns the focus onto transgendered issues, specifically in teens.

The story here is told from the point of view of Regan, a young teenage girl who shares the basement of her suburban home with her brother Liam. Only her brother is not actually a boy. Physically, Liam is a boy, but Luna is a girl. Liam is transgendered. A person who was born into a males body, but identifies herself as a female and has taken up the name Luna. But Luna has had to share this secret with only her sister throughout her life, hiding herself even from her parents and her best friend. She takes safety in her sister’s room dressing as a girl and putting on makeup and it’s only then that she truly feels safe.

At school, Liam catches the eye of many girls, girls he has no interest in. His father pressures him to try out for the baseball team and rebuild cars, constantly denying the fact that his son is not a son. His best friend since childhood and his neighbor, Aly is in love with him. And his mother has avoided the world with a pill addiction. In the middle of all of this, Luna is a point where she is ready to start transitioning into her true self, a self that is not accepted by the world. Far from excepted by the world.

Being Luna’s only confidant puts a lot of weight on Regan’s shoulders. Regan has her own issues at hand. She feels like she’s always lived in the shadow of her older brother/sister and wants so much to always be there for her. But she wants a life of her own too. She’s met a boy named Chris that she’s fallen hard for, but she’s a continuous mess in front of him (which I must say provides some truly laugh out loud moments). But while she’s falling for him, Luna is always in the back of her mind. Every time she finds something for herself, Luna seems to take it away by demanding her support.

My experience with reading this book was like a rollercoaster. I was up and down as I turned the pages. I went from laughing at times to feeling like my heart was being ripped out for Liam/Luna, for Regan. For the situations that Luna had to deal with. For Luna when she decides to go out in public as herself for the first time. For the first time she’s rejected as herself. For the judgements that people put on her. But my heart smiled for her when she had her moments of happiness. When Regan had her moments of happiness. At the clumsiness that Regan shared with Chris, her first love. So much emotion packed into this book…fear, love, confusion, heartache….it’s all there.

Have I confused you with Luna/Liam’s gender yet? With the pronouns I’ve used in this review? Fear not. Peters handles all this perfectly and I was never once confused. But think of this for one moment. This is why this book is so important. If you were confused even for a moment…And thought that this book might confuse you…think how confusing it must be to be transgendered. To be nine years old and to be so different than the world says you should be….that you don’t fit in anywhere, no matter where you are. You play with boys and they make fun of you and then you play with girls and they make fun of you too. You’re not gay because you don’t identify yourself as a male. You’re not straight…it’s not that you like girls, you just want to be one. Or vice versa. I’m just using the character in this book as an example.

My point is, I commend Julie Anne Peters for writing this book. I commend her for continuing to write books that tackle LGBT issues and writing them for teens. Though I think they need to be read by everyone, not just teens. But the younger, the better. This knowledge needs to be known as young as possible, I think. I certainly learned a LOT about transgendered people from this book and I think I’m a better person for it. We can all afford to learn more about LGBT issues…we can all afford to learn more about each other. We can all afford to learn more about what makes us all individuals….and respect that.

“When people look at me, the don’t see the real me. They can’t because I look like this.” He swept a hand down his chest.

What was I supposed to say? How many times had I heard this? “I like that shirt,” I settle on, trying to lighten the mood. “Is it new?”

He cast me a withering glance.

“Sorry”

“No one will ever know the person I am inside. The true me. The girl, the woman. All they see is this…this nothing.”

“You’re not nothing.” I snapped. “You’re a person. You’re Liam”

“Liam.” He let out a short laugh. “Who’s that? A caricature I’ve created. A puppet, a mime, a cartoon character. I’m this male macho version of a son that Dad has in his head.”

————————————————————-

The gender scales didn’t extend equidistant in both directions. For example, if you were a girl you could be off-the-scale feminine and that’d be fine, but if you acted or felt just a little too masculine, you were a dyke.

Same for guys. Mucho macho, fine. Soft and gentle, fag.

What if you happened to be born off both scales, between scales like Liam? Then you were just a freak.

I know that’s how Liam felt. He told me once there was no place for him in the world, that he didn’t fit anywhere. He really was off the scale. Boy by day, girl by night. Except, he was a girl all the time, inside. It was hardwired into his brain, he said, the way intelligence or memory is. His body didn’t reflect his inner image. His body betrayed him. The way people viewed Liam, as a boy, meant he had to play to their expectations. Dress the part. Act the role. And Liam was good at it, expert. He’d had all thoe years of practice. It had to be horrible, though, day after day after day, seeing all around him what he wanted so desperately to be and never could.

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14 Responses

  1. The book sounds heartbreaking Chris. It reminded me of Middlesex. Thanks for the review.

  2. I read this book a couple of years ago, and loved it. I think it’s one of her better written ones. And trangender issues are definitely very very complex, which, as you’ve mentioned, she handles very well.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. What a great review Chris! This was already on my list for Amanda’s challenge, and now I definitely want to read it. I read

  4. Eek! I don’t know why my comment posted when I was in the middle of typing! Ahem.

    So, I read I’m Looking Through You, a memoir by a transgendered person last fall, and it was amazing. Boylan did SUCH a good job of explaining how she felt as a kid/teen.

  5. Our dearest Debi got me this a while ago đŸ˜€ I can’t wait to read it. It sounds wonderful!

  6. OH, this sounds so good! I will definitely try to find a copy of it for the GLBT challenge this year!!

  7. I picked this one up not long after reading Between Mom and Jo, but this is the first review I”ve seen of it. I’m glad it lived up to expectations. I’m actually saving this one for May when we’re focusing on transgendered issues for the GLBT Challenge (as well as Boylan’s memoir that Eva mentions), but I just finished another Peters book the other day and it was wonderful. I’m beginning to think she can do no wrong.

  8. Wow, this sounds fantastic (and very emotional). Will definitely keep an eye out for it.

  9. This sounds phenomenal. I am definitely adding it to my TBR pile immediately!

  10. I haven’t yet read any of her books, but am so excited to get to every single one of them! This one really tops my list, but will probably read Define “Normal” first since I already have it. This review was so wonderful, Chris! If it wasn’t already on my wish list, you would have put it there.

  11. And on to the TBR it goes!!! This sounds so great. Your last paragraph was a really wonderful connection to make. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be transgendered. Thank you for reading and reviewing this book!

  12. I should read more from her. I never even thought about it… Maybe I will start with this one.

  13. Your review was awesome Chris. I absolutely fell in love with this book a few years ago. I even recommended it to a past student who was dealing with a lot gender identity issues. Working at a middle school can be very rewarding but having to deal with ignorant people is even harder. Thank goodness for writers like this and for readers like you!!!!

  14. I’ve wanted to read this ever since I saw it the first time! I need need need to get it one of these days.
    I think that when talking about LGBT issues, the gays and lesbians are gaining a lot more respect and understanding with the general public than transgenders. There’s still an ongoing debate about whether the T should be included in the LGBT acronym, as some gays feel THEY don’t belong with them and (maybe) viceversa. It just goes to show how transgenders are often rejected by both the mainstream society and the gay community. There’s still so much our society need to learn about them. And I count myself in it.
    I’ve grown up in an unconventional family, and as a child I’ve had many different kind of people around including gay men and women, friends of my father and his partner. Some of these friends were sometimes babysitting us. I still remember with fondness a woman called Daphne. We knew she was born a man, but she called herself with a female name, and sounded and looked like a woman, so we, as kids, found only natural to refer to Daphne as “she”. I remember thinking about her sexuality then ( I was around 12) and came to the simple conclusion that she wasn’t a gay man, just a woman born into the wrong body, and thus she was technically straight.
    I think I understood it better then. Now I find myself thinking stuff like “but.. but..they were born that way (female or male), you shouldn’t want to change it, they should accept who they are”. Obviously I don’t get it anymore. Or I ask myself more questions.

    I’m really looking forward to reading this. It’s necessary to talk about this subject a lot more than it currently is.

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