Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reader Response: Luna Pt. 3

Continued notes on my chapter-by-chapter reader response for Luna by Julie Anne Peters.

Chapter Eleven

Luna and Regan venture into the mall, seeing if Luna passes. Mixed success. A flashback about the difference between being trans and gay. Luna being hurt in the present and the past by "fag!" slurs. This chapter was a lot of telling, but it was also showing the damage words do.

Chapter Twelve

And then dad became a human being instead of an ogre for a minute. He actually asked Regan what he was doing wrong and gave some insight into how he could be so deluded as to think he was helping Luna. Mostly, I admired Regan for giving a true but non-specific answer. Dad didn't go for it, but at least he asked and listened to the words that came out of Regan's mouth. I was surprised along with Regan to hear that Luna has always idolized dad.

Chapter Thirteen

Another flashback. I give up on complaining about them. They're so integral to the structure of this book. This one does a few interesting things at once that are relevant to Luna's closing comment last chapter. First, it shows that kids can still idolize abusive fathers because Regan's uncles felt that way about their own abusive father. Second, it shows that this abusive grandfather tried to pull this on Luna and their dad intervened forcefully. Third, Regan remembers that dad drove Luna to school himself to keep bullies at bay. Different reasons Luna might adore her father despite feeling like a constant disappointment. I like the complexity and ambiguity here. Dad is becoming yet more of a complex character.

Another outing. Some strange delusions of passing going on with Luna. Maybe she needed to believe it was working? A big coincidence of Regan's crush showing up while Luna was changing. If he's telling the truth about dropping the class knowing he could have used Regan for math help, then my opinion of him has gone back up.

I am, however, bothered that Luna was changing in the rest room for forty minutes. The only thing that makes sense to me is a lot of psyching up time before stepping out.

Chapter Fourteen

There is a behavioral similarity between Luna and dad: they care, but they're both bad at noticing when their own concerns are trampling other people who are letting that happen.

Their father has finally reached the point where he's ready to deal with the possibility that his son is gay. He asks Regan straight out and gets the (incomplete) truth, then is relieved. It's not what Luna needs, but it's a shaky step in the right direction.

Chapter Fifteen

For me, the most significant thing in this chapter was the way Regan and Luna's mom had felt trapped in the role their father expected of her and that's why she went into catering despite his barbs and complaints. And why she has a drug problem. This is a more general message about how soul crushing it is to spend life conforming to someone's expectations who might genuinely care in some ways, but who doesn't care enough to listen and respond to personal needs.

Chapter Sixteen

More teen crush adorableness. Then Bad Ideas in Babysitting. Suspense just went back up. Regan should know better to have someone substitute with the babysitting whom the kids' parents haven't met, even if she knows Luna is safe.

Chapter Seventeen

The physical comedy distracted me from the tension for a couple of minutes.

Chapter Eighteen

I did not expect this to be such a pleasant girl/boy puppy love story. Regan is a good protagonist. I wonder if some of this is on purpose to say: hey, are you cisgendered and straight? Cool too! It's also a nice juxtaposition. Sure, Luna likes boys, but it's definitely all about personal identity with her.

Chapter Nineteen

Luna is reckless, selfish, and the worst to Regan. At this point I feel much worse for Regan than Luna. On the bright side, I'm not reading a book where the oppressed transgender teen is a shining paragon. It makes Luna more mixed. More human.

Chapter Twenty

"What just happened here, besides nothing?" That's right up there with the line from Haunted: "Nothing happened, and nothing kept happening." Both seem empty (har har), but the lack of what was expected can be the most stand-up-and-pay-attention! thing of all.

A morning of seeming repentant, but it didn't really cost Luna much. Soon she's back to using Regan without caring if Regan wants to be used. Of course she'll go along with it anyway.

I'm starting to wonder if this book exists not only to give hope to trans teens, but to warn them that they can hurt others around them unnecessarily if they believe they're the only ones vulnerable. Luna isn't hurting Regan by coming out, she's hurting Regan by echoing the lapses in empathy of their father.

Chapter Twenty-One

Bad timing for a flashback I didn't need. Must read the next chapter immediately.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Another purpose of this book is to raise awareness that transgender people exist and are human beings. Luna coming out to her best friend suddenly and without Alyson knowing anything beyond the 'G' in LGBTQ went badly. Of course it did.

I appreciate Regan's decision not to cheat on her Chemistry test, as planned. I appreciate Julie Anne Peter's decision for Regan to fail because of it.

Yep. Yep. This is still the most enjoyable romance novel I've read, with a surprisingly prominent side plot about the protagonist's insufferable trans sister. ...but not so insufferable as to deserve a beating from the stock bully character when she showed up to school as herself.

Chapter Twenty-Three

And now Regan is being lectured by a voice inside her head. I could understand this if it fit Regan's personality, but I've been inside Regan's head this entire book and so I can safely say this is Julie Anne Peter's voice. Suspension of disbelief broken. Lame. I hope the end of this book doesn't go back to being as lecture-and-exposition as the opening chapters were.

Chapter Twenty-Four

That flashback was over the top. How many trans women have actually tried to cut off their penises at, um, 10 or maybe earlier? I'm not buying it.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Predictable things happening. I would like something between unbelievable and what I've been expecting for half the book.

Chapter Twenty-Six

"They had been tested as parents and failed. Zero percent." While true for the barely-human "parental units" in this book, I have to wonder how useful this book will be to any trans teens trying to cope with parental rejection. Luna had high tech skills, income that didn't depend on social acceptance, and therefore the money to simply walk away from home and catch a flight to a new life when she hit 18.

This leaves Alyson in the dust as soon as they were starting to deal with being friends with transgender status out in the open. It leaves Regan with a car, and claims of appreciation, but Luna shows no new sign that she would care enough to stop trampling other people's lives while she's doing it.

Regan's romance plot is left hanging, which is possibly the worst thing I can say about this book's ending. But, hey, nice middle.

Goal Check
"I want this book to help me toward becoming a more accepting person. I also want to be able to recommend it to any teen who might be thinking about gender identity, whether it be for his or her own self, for a family member, for a friend, or because of a general interest in social justice. I want Luna to draw clear distinctions among gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. If it could be an amazing story on top of all this, that would be...just swell."
Do I feel like I have become a better, more accepting person toward trans women from reading this book? No. Luna was an out of control jerk whose primary virtue seems to have been lucrative job skills. Does it show the ugliness of transphobia? Hell yes. Despite Luna herself, this is a valuable book for people to read in much the same way that The Autobiography of Malcolm X is valuable to expose the ugliness of racism, despite Malcolm X's own crummy personality. Would I recommend it to teens? Yes. How about adults? No. The difference is that this is very much the sort of teen book where adults uniformly Don't Get It. The main teen characters come around to at least trying to accept Luna, except the one-dimensional bully. Without this anti-adult element working positively on a reader, I don't think this book would be an effective ambassador for transgender acceptance.

Was it an amazing story? As I kept mentioning, Regan's own romance plotline was pretty darn pleasurable, if you don't mind it being left in the air when the curtain closes behind Luna. Typical Luna.

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