Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Luna by Julie Anne Peters

 

I was reading some reviews for other YA LGBT+ books I wanted to try and one of them, also involving a teenage trans-woman, had a review that said something like, "This is a book about transgender people written for cis people." And I thought about that a lot while reading LUNA because I kind of feel like this book is, too. Luna, the eponymous young trans-woman character, isn't the heroine of her own story. That privilege goes to her sister, Regan, who consistently misgenders her and refers to her deadname. Granted, this was written in the early 2000s when people were much more misinformed about trans issues and there was much less protective infrastructure in place to ensure that protected classes are just that: protected. Speaking as someone who went to high school in the 2000s, people were jerks. And they got away with it, because that's how it was back then. People were so much more intolerant and awful than they are now.

The only book about trans people I remember reading during this time period was WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER, which actually shares many of the same issues as LUNA. It isn't really centered on the group of people it's about; like LUNA, the heroine in WHTLG is an ignorant bigot whose world view is reshaped by the trans person who enters her life and teaches her to, you know, not be such a jerk. WHTLG's protagonist is actually probably non-binary, but the heroine assigns Lani male pronouns, and it is the heroine's pronouns, and not Lani's, that stay consistent over the story. Likewise, Regan talks about Luna in the terms that she, Regan, feels comfortable with, switching back and forth between masculine and feminine whenever it suits her comfort or world-view. But that should never be the case. If someone is non-binary and tells you it's okay to swap or tells you when to swap, that's their business, but you should 100% not do that for them and especially not when it's contrary to what they want-- which is the case in Luna because Luna, as I said before, is a trans-woman. Period.

The writing is actually quite good and the author REALLY captures the time period so well. The sexist teachers? The casual homophobia? The bullying? Yeah, my schools definitely had some of that. Regan is even a believable heroine in her reactions-- which is maybe what makes this book so unpleasant to read. Especially since Luna is so obviously suffering (major trigger warnings for body dysmorphia, attempted suicide, bullying, misgendering and HORRIBLE PARENTS) and Regan is just whining about "me, me, me, and how hard this makes MY LIFE." Again, realistic for a teenager at the time probably, but also probably not what many of the teens picking this up are going to want to read.

I probably would have given this book a one star if the author had done what WHTLG's author did and killed off the trans character but thank GOD she did not. I gave an extra star for that. WHTLG got a four star review because it was the first book I ever read about trans issues and I credit it with making me want to seek out more books about the LGBT+ at a time when they were pretty hard to find in most libraries. I probably would have given this book a higher rating too if I had read it as a teenager, but reading it as an adult mostly left me with horror at how wretchedly poor Luna was treated.

Some people will probably enjoy it but I think some people might actually find it seriously distressing (and it's bad enough that I think it could, potentially, elicit anxiety in someone with that kind of trigger). So if you're interested in this book, make sure you read the warnings and go in with caution.

2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars

2 comments:

  1. Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars by Kai Cheng Thom is a more recent YA trans story that is a lot of fun and pushes back *hard* against this kind of cisgender centered narrative

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    1. Thank you so much for the recommendation!

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