21 April 2009

Review:: Luna by Julie Anne Peters

If all civilizations are built upon gender expectations (hunters vs. gatherers, "fathers who want their sons to play baseball" vs. "mothers who want their daughters to take ballet lessons"), then individuals who don't fit their man/woman mold are bound to become very familiar with uncomfortable silences.

In Julie Anne Peters' sisterly/brotherly novel Luna, Liam is technically born a boy but has always felt like a girl inside. He spurs his metamorphosis forward by calling himself Lia Marie or Luna and exploring feminine clothes. And Luna isn't even the main character of the book. It's Luna's sister Reagan, with the boyish name, who tells the story as she squirms and tries to protect her brother. While Liam/Luna is marked by movement and mimicking of feminine body language, Reagan is comparatively immobile. She is indecisive, beats out Bella Swan in the complete-klutz-on-a-date category, and sometimes despises her sibling. In other words, she is the "every teen" while Liam and Luna are both larger than life.

I've read criticism of Luna's "stereotypical" qualities. True, not all male-to-female transgender teens like pink. Not all of them crossdress. Is it so wrong, though, that this one does? I will say, though, that I'd like to see more character flaws in Luna. You're meant to desperately love Luna because she is the kind of sister you might envy-- someone who is brilliant and independently well-off, loves you to bits, and gives you the answers to the Chemistry test you're about to bomb. More importantly, she is meant to put the reader at ease with the thought of being transgender and SRS (sex reassignment surgery).

So, if Luna's near-perfection allows readers to not feel so icky about the gender swap, then I don't mind so much.

8.57 of 9
The conversations between Reagan and Liam/Luna really brought this home to me. They could be lighthearted one moment and downright cruel the next. Those two were definitely the most touching part of the equation. Their friend Aly was a minor character but a realistic one, especially with the way she deals with Liam's truth. The rest? Eh. The mother and father could both be rather disconnected and surreal, and I don't know any teen boys who would put up with the way Reagan consistently blows Chris off.
It took me nearly five months to read this book, partly because I started it when I had too many projects going. Each time I picked it up, though, I was completely engrossed. So it's not because it's slow, per se, but because I wanted to enjoy it.
Obviously, it's too easy to say this is geared to LGBT readers. The book itself claims it's for anyone who's ever felt invisible. I think this could be a life-changing read for some, and opinion-changing for others.
Like it? Try this!::
I haven't read Ellen Wittlinger's Parrotfish, a novel about a female-to-male transgender teen, but I imagine it's pretty good, especially since I'm a *huge* fan of her novel Hard Love.
Further Notes::
This National Book Award finalist might feel somewhat dated in twenty years, but having the courage to accept the things about you that you cannot control will never go out of style.

Luna. By Julie Anne Peters. Little, Brown, and Company, 2004. 248 pages. $7.99