Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Luna - Julie Anne PetersLuna – Julie Anne Peters
Little, Brown and Company, 2006
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository

In Luna, Reagan, a teen girl who has to keep up with school, meets a boy she likes and that might like her back, deals with parents that have grown apart, hides a secret on top of the average secrets a  teenager carries: her brother, Liam, is transgender. He is born a boy, but feels like a girl inside and calls herself Luna.

In some ways, this is your average YA book. There is a lot of teen angst. Reagan has a hard time expressing herself and keeping up with everything that is important to her: school, family, job, possible boyfriend. I did notice how she seems to have next to no friends, outside of Liam/Luna. But maybe that is to explicitly address how Reagan and Luna both were affected by the prejudices surrounding transgender. How Reagan struggles to keep a balance between her love for her brother/sister and her fear of being rejected when someone finds out about their secret. In some ways, Reagan seems very self-centred, but then again, that is how most teens are described in YA. And then, I cannot really blame Reagan. Being the only confidante of her brother, is a heavy weight to carry.

There were some things that were very different. For one, Peters feels the need to explain a lot. Which makes sense. Transgender is a very confusing thing for many, which might explain the need to underline how being transgender is not the same as being gay and the constant referral to gender expectations. But in a way, I liked that Julie Anne Peters did. Because it not only addresses issues surrounding transgender, but it also addresses gender expectations in general. Something I would like teens to think more about.

Pretty. A word for girls. The way handsome described boys. Liam was right; people did use boy and girl language. They expected different behaviors. When kid acted “out of role,” as Liam put it, they were labeled tomboys or sissies.

There were lines you didn’t cross, in clothing, behavior, attitude. Like, if I wore lipstick and lace to school, nobody would even notice. Well, they might, since I’ve never worn either. I wasn’t that girly-girly. People could accept if you moved along your own gender scale – be a princess one day and a slob the next. Same with boys.

To a point.

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 am sorry for the long quote, but I felt it was needed to explain why Peters’ explanations were kind of perfect.

One other thing that is different from other YA I have read? This was far more negative. As in, there was so much prejudice towards gay and transgender people that Liam/Luna and Reagan had to deal with, that at times I found myself wondering if it wasn’t a bit over the top. Sadly, I think it might not be. I guess parents often find it hard to deal with something like this, and teens? we all know they can be harsh and rejecting. But in a way, I kept hoping for a happier ending. I think I agree with Amy’s review when it comes to this negativity.

As my first GLBT book, Luna was a great success. I also loved how it fitted in perfectly with the reading for the Feminist Classics project, with the focus on gender expectations.

Thanks to Amy for sending me this book.

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13 thoughts on “Luna by Julie Anne Peters

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Luna by Julie Anne Peters | Iris on Books -- Topsy.com

  2. nymeth

    I often think the angst comes down more to the emotional tumult of adolescence more than to any faults with YA. Of course, not all teens are angsty, but them again neither are all YA characters. I guess I’m just saying I don’t see YA as apart from other fiction like other more sophisticated readers seem to. I usually put this down to me being fifteen in my head ;) Anyway, I’m so glad you liked this! I own it, but I haven’t read it yet. I’m even more excited to get to it now that I know it deals with gender expectations in general in addition to transgender issues.

    Reply
  3. Amanda

    While I’ve not read this one in particular, I’ve read many of Peters’ books and unfortunately the amount of grief her characters suffer through is generally pretty accurate in the US. I know it’s different outside the states, but it’s frequent occurance for gay or transgendered children to not be able to tell their parents about themselves, and when/if they do, for those parents to disown them or kick them out or physically hurt them or a multitude of other things. One reason I love Peters so much is that she states the plain truth with no softening on these points. It’s depressing, yes, but important to know, I think.

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  4. vivienne

    An interesting book. I tried to imagine how I would feel as a parent and I would hope that my children would be able to be open with me. Perhaps I am more liberal in my views than some parents, but I would rather my child came to me. I would never disown my children over this.

    Reply
  5. amymckie

    I’m glad you gave this book a chance and enjoyed it Iris. It was negative but certainly not sensationalized I don’t think. It is definitely more a book about how Reagan deals with it rather than focusing on Luna’s story. Interesting book and I’d be interested to read a book now from her point of view!

    Reply
  6. Cass

    The issue I have with YA novels with trans characters is that they are almost always pleas for tolerance, usually by making the character as abused and miserable as possible to make cis (people who do not have complicated gender identification) people feel bad for the characters with the hope that they will then view the trans folks as “tragic figures” who need their understanding. While, of course, this is better than cis folks being transphobic, I think we could use a few YA books that are written with trans kids in mind, ie trans characters who offer hope and show that there IS a way to lead a happy life while being trans.

    In regard to real numbers, there was recently a big survey in the US of trans people (the largest ever, around 5000 trans people surveyed): There was recently a report (http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/02/04/us-transgender-survey-finds-discrimination-and-ridicule-at-every-turn/) that gives real numbers on the discrimination trans folks face in the US. I will say, for the record, that I know many trans people (and my partner is a trans man) and none of them have been disowned by their parents. The trans rights movement has a long way to go, but it IS possible to be trans and happy and loved. :)

    Reply
  7. Bina

    Somehow I don’t take too well to teen angst, which is probably why I don’t read a lot of it. But the transgender angle sounds interesting :)

    Reply
  8. Ash

    This sounds excellent and difficult. I’m really interested in transgender issues, which I think are addressed for less than gay and lesbian issues. I think I’ll have to read this.

    Reply
  9. Jenny

    All the angst in this one made it a bit too over-the-top for me, I have to confess. I liked the idea of it, but in practice, I got fed up with how shrieky the characters got about everything. :/

    Reply
  10. laughingstars66

    I really liked this book. I can see what you mean about the negativity. I had this reaction to at least one of Julie Anne Peters’ other books — do LGBT teens really deal with this much constant grief, or is this a bit contrived and over the top? Sadly, I think it might not be overdone. This is probably reality for many people.

    Reply
  11. Becky

    Wow. I really need to get around to reading this book. Since I teach Popular Fiction for high school students, I think I should have books like this as an option if students ask. Thanks for pointing it out!

    Reply

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