Author(s): Julie Anne Peters
Release Date: 1st February 2006
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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.
When you pick up a book titled after one of its characters, your basic expectation will be that the book will be about that character, their story, and told from their point of view. On top of that, if the quotes of readers included in said book also refer to how the book is about that character, that is what you surely expect to see.
'Luna' is not, sadly, about Luna.
Regan is Luna's sister. From a very young age, she's known her brother, Liam, was different. He preferred playing with girls, putting on nail polish, and even started buying wigs and skirts off the nearest thrifts shops. One day, Liam wakes up Regan and tells her he is not, in fact, a boy, but a girl, and chooses the name Lia Marie. In the cover of darkness, Lia uses Regan's room as a safe space to be who she is, and explore her identity, settling later on on the name Luna.
And all that Regan seems to be able to do, is complain.
This book is written from Regan's perspective, and she narrates the entire story. I would like to say there is a redeeming quality about her, but sadly I could not find one throughout the entire book. She is the only person Luna has entrusted with her secret, and Regan repeatedly considers that a burden and the reason why she has no friends or social life. Keeping that secret is, supposedly, the cause of every single problem in Regan's life, and she makes sure Luna is well aware of that opinion.
The first thing I noticed while reading is how Regan repeatedly and constantly addresses Luna wrongly. Throughout the entire book, she uses male pronouns and Luna's birth name even when they are alone. It is obviously understandable that Regan would call Luna Liam in front of their parents or when other people are around, but when she is thinking about her? Apparently, it is very 'confusing' for her to get used to it (which, again, would be justifiable to a point on an initial phase, but years after the fact?), and the first thing she does when Luna tells her she's decided to not go by Lia Marie anymore is... You guessed it... Complain.
I constantly craved for more of Luna on the page. She is such a fantastic character, and so filled with strength (especially considering the lack of support she has), that the need for this book to be told from her point of view was starkly evident with each passing chapter. If I, as a cis reader, thought so, I imagine any trans teens looking to see themselves represented on the page will be infinitely frustrated and disappointed.
Considering when this book was published, even this glimmer of representation was a rare sight, and luckily the publishing world as moved forward (even if not by much, sadly). Even if kids and teens out there would like a book like this if they are in a similar situation with a sibling or a friend, this is not, in any way, a positive representation of the role of an ally. Trans people are just that, people, and there is no true need for a guide on how to 'deal' with them. Get yourself informed, and support them just as you would any other person you care about.
The only reason I did not give it a lower rating is because there are a couple of good points about gender stereotypes explored in it (even if Regan does her best to destroy them), and, taking away everything bad that Regan does, by thinking of herself as a special little snowflake that deserved better, looking at only Luna's (little) voice in it, it could still be inspiring (even if demoralizing) to teens out there in her position that think of themselves as alone in their thoughts.
If you read this book, do go into it being fully aware of its problems. Its problematic framing of the story of a transgender teen that does not, apparently, deserve to tell her own story is not how we are going to achieve better representation in literature. Take several grains of salt with this one, and enjoy the little moments of brilliance that Luna is allowed to have.