Thursday 18 July 2013

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Review: Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Luna by Julie Anne PetersLuna by Julie Anne Peters - In Peters's critically acclaimed novel, she explores another neglected but important issue: the inspirational story of a transgendered teen. Luna confronts the mystery, the confusion and the struggles of gender identity in this profound, heartbreaking, yet ultimately heartening story. Through the eyes of his sixteen-year-old sister Regan, struggling with her own adolescence, we witness Liam resolve to stop hiding in his basement bedroom, and become Luna to the outside world.

This groundbreaking novel paves the way towards understanding the demands put upon a transgender and challenges us all to embrace our identities.
From Amazon UK

Edit: Since reviewing this book, I have discovered that Luna is a problematic book. Please read The "Acceptance" Narrative in Trans YA on Gay YA to see why.

Luna is one of those novels that when you finish reading, you feel so lucky to have read it, so honoured that Julie Anne Peters wrote it to share with us readers, to share with me. I am completely blown away.

Regan's older brother is actually her sister. Liam is a transgendered female in a male body, and Regan is the only one who knows her secret - knows her sister, Luna, that Liam has to force down and hide during the day, but who is let out to spread her wings at night. Regan has felt the burden of being Luna's confident, as Luna leans heavily on her, the only person with whom she can be herself, the only person who's advice she can ask on clothes and make-up. In trying to keep Luna's secret, Regan has struggled to live her own life, not getting too close to anyone, in case she slips up and ruins everything. But now Luna has decided to transition, to start showing herself during the day in public, and is desperate for Regan to stand by her side, just as the new guy at school wants to get to know Regan better.
'I cried for her. I cried for me. I cried for a world that wouldn't let her be.' (p211)
This is such a hard story. Difficult story. Not to read, but for the lives of the characters. Luna has to live such a hard life. Being this person every day that she hates, pretending to everyone she meets that she's someone she's not, trying to live up to other people's expectations - especially her dad's - when she has no interest in or desire for the things expected of her. It's got to be emotionally crushing. If Luna was told from her point of  view, this book would be such a difficult read.
'Liam lifted his head and straightened in his seat. "Every day, the same old thing. Hiding, lying, holding her in. It's too hard. I can't do it...When people look at me, they don't see the real me. They can't because I look like this." He swept a hand down his chest..."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." (p20)
You can understand how she lives for the nights when she can be herself, talk to her sister as a girl, show off her new clothes and make-up, like any other girl likes to do. She is desperate for these moments to be herself, when she looks in the mirror and likes what she sees.
'"Like it?" She shimmied in front of the mirror. The llayered fringe on the dress she was wearing swayed in waves. "It's an old flappeer dress I found at Goodwill," she said. In her stockinged feet, she performed a little Charleston for me. "It's vintage. Totally retro. Don't you think? I'm wearing this baby to prom."...Examining the length of herself, she hooked her long hair over her ears and wiggled her hips again. She'd chosen the vlonde wig tonight. It wasn't her favourite, since she thought it made her look cheap. Like a slut. It did go well with the red dress though. She caught me looking at her and smiled.' (p1)
Both Regan and Luna are similar that they can be quite selfish at times. Luna outwardly, constantly needing Regan to lean on, confide in, talk to, be herself with, without much thought about Regan's need to sleep or have a life of her own, and Regan internally, thinking selfish thoughts. Though that's not entirely true. Regan is pretty much always there was Liam/Luna, whether he's acting the part or she's being herself. Regan just doesn't want to have to be. And I can kind of understand it. When as far back as you can remember, you have been the emotional crutch to someone else, and being so affects your own life, you can start to get resentful.
'Same way I hated my brother. He was always there, invading, interfering, ruining my chances of any kind of normal existence. It was always him, his needs, his wants. What about what I wanted? A regular family. A circle of friends. A best friend. A boyfriend. Was that so much to ask?' (p172)
Regan does understand though. Or understands as much as she's able without actually going through it. She sees her sister suffering in silence during the day, going through so much pain.
'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 find, 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 happened if you were 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 that there was no place for him in the world, that he didn't fit anywhere. He was really 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 those 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.' 
Resentment and understanding battle in Regan through most of the novel; wanting her own life, but knowing how much Luna needs her and wanting to help. There's just no balance, really.
'Why can't you just give this up? Leave it the way it is, the way it's always been? I turned to say it, but the vibes emanating from Liam made me swallow the words. His need, the longing, they were palpable, physical, flowing back and forth between us as if we shared one vascular system. One heart.' (p106)
When Luna decides to start her slow transition into being herself out in the big wide world, you can't help but admire her, despite the fact that it's now more need than choice.
"I'm strangling her. She's not the one I want to eliminate. All this suppressing and holding her down, keeping her caged, perpetuating this fraud, this sham. I can't do it anymore." He shook his head. "I can't." He raised his chin and looked at me. "It won't go away. No matter how much I wish, or pray, she's always with me. She is me. I am her. I want to be her. I want to be Luna."
"You are," I said. "You can be."
"No." He blinked. "I mean all the time. I want to be free. I want to transition."
Luna is so brave and courageous, but by reading this book, I've realised there's no real choice in the matter. Luna either goes out and take the risks, shows the world who she really is and take steps to becoming the girl she's always known she is, or live a lie, a miserable, poor excuse for a life. Luna decides to take the path of being true to herself, a path that isn't without hardship, fear or doubt, but a path of hope for joy and happiness. Luna's is an amazing story, and watching Regan try and build a life for herself while Luna starts living hers is just wonderful. As I said, it's a difficult story, but a completely beautiful one. I finished it with tears in my eyes. An incredible story, and one I implore everyone to read.

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Published: 4th December 2008
Publisher: Little, Brown Children's Books
Buy on Amazon US
Julie Anne Peters' Website


  1. Thank you, Jo. This is a thorough and thoughtful review.

    <3 Julie

    1. Thank you! And thank you for stopping and commenting! :)