Author: Julie Anne Peters
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Co.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age Level: 9th Grade and Up
Luna is the story of Regan and her older brother Liam-or, should we say, her older sister Luna. Ever since Regan was small, she knew that there was something different about her brother. He always wanted to be the mother when they played house. All of his friends were girls. One day, she comes back to their house unexpectedly, only to discover Liam dressed in their mother's clothes. Liam is 100% sure that she is a girl. Unfortunately, she was born in the body of a boy. Regan agrees to keep her secret, covering for her whenever anyone might catch on to her true self. As Liam/Luna gets ready to graduate from high school, she becomes more and more sure that she is going to have to come out as transgendered, or lose herself to depression or worse. Regan struggles with her feelings about her brother-and herself. What will people think of her if Luna comes out to live in the light?
There are not very many books that deal with the subject of transgendered people, and even fewer for young adults. But Luna is a shining example of how deftly the subject can be handled for a younger audience. Peter's has written a novel that is frank in its handling of the subject matter, not pathologizing transgenderism, but showing it from a very real place. Her use of Regan as narrator gives the subject an interesting twist, because anyone who knows someone who is transgendered but struggles to understand exactly what they feel can see themselves in her. It also provides an authenticity to the story, perhaps more so than if Luna had told it herself. There is debate in the world of multicultural literature about whether people not belonging to the group whose story is being told should try to tell it, and the structure of this novel deftly avoids that controversy. Of course, there are plenty of things that people could find controversial in this novel. With its themes of self-acceptance, peer pressure, and family drama it could be any coming-of-age novel. But we as a country are not terribly comfortable with the idea of transgendered people-especially male to female transgenderism. The fact that Luna is able to transcend the doubt and fear, and find a way to be herself despite those that oppose her, is ultimately a story of triumph over the odds. The journey that Regan takes through her unconditional love for her brother, and the lengths she is willing to go through to keep him safe, can teach us a lot about how to show loving acceptance for anyone in our lives struggling to be who they know they were born to be.
I was not able to find any web-based resources for teaching with this novel. However, I think that it could easily be included in any unit of study that looked at themes of self-acceptance. It could also be included in a discussion of social justice issues regarding the GLBTQ community. It is certainly a book that I would recommend to any transgendered youth-it shows that they are not alone, and that there is hope.