Julie Anne Peters Luna is a thought-provoking and realistic portrayal of the challenges and triumphs that teenagers and young adults go through as they grow up. The pursuit of identity in the face of self-realization leads to tough decisions that come with social influences. Peters uses the Regan as a mouthpiece to shade light into the life of her brother, Liam. The author addresses the issues facing a transgender teen in a controlled flow without sounding instructional. Such include topics ranging from hormones, lingo and sex exchange. Frequent flashback narrations dissect lots of controversial transsexual subjects which the society shies away from. The conversational and yet confessional style of writing used is significant in Regans flashback revealing every occurrence going on, including her emotions and those of Liam.
Regans narrations and interactions with her brother open a door into the life of a young man, Liam, who considers himself a female trapped inside the body of a male. Liams transsexual orientation leads him to change his name to Luna to see herself as a female. Her name, she says, is associated with the moon, whose light only shines at night. As a young child, Regan remembers how Liam played with girls toys and games. This opens a window into Liams childhood where it all began (p.16-17).
Teenage feelings of sexual identities are often secrets trusted with only a few trusted people. Peters book is a creatively crafted work that gives voice to those misunderstood teenagers through the two principal characters. The theme of sexual identity is a dominant topic that Peters explores. Regan, Lunas sister, and confidant is the only person she trusts with her secret. Luna transforms from an attractive young teenager during the day, to a teenage girl at night wearing dresses and having her sister help her with makeup and girlhood experiences. Luna is Regans little secret and loves him so much because she is her brother.
The book explores a mild representation of the spirit of sacrifice and love. Despite having intimate feelings for Chris, her lab partner, Regan avoids letting him too close to her fearing he might learn her secret. Luna reveals her desire for transition (p.20-21) from male to the female gender, an idea Regan supports fully. She, however, grows nervousness due to the uncertainties of how her social circle is going to perceive her brothers transition. Regan offers to take Liam shopping and finds it difficult stand peoples treatment of her brother dressed in girly clothing. Such is how two siblings offer to depend on each others love and comfort, the luxury their parents cannot guarantee having lost their parental responsibilities in the quest to concentrate on their professional lives.
Aly, Liams best friend, secretly wishes that she and Liam were partners. She visits Liam to play computer games in the basement. In her quest to achieve her real identity as a female and not a male, Liam begins to dress like a girl when going to the shopping mall, then dresses the same when going to school and finally at home. In the process, Regan gets angry and accuses him of ruining her chances of having a normal life. In this sense, she refers to having had to avoid Chris to keep Lunas secret. Liams transformation to Luna costs him Alys friendship, and she abandons him after Liam told her that he was a girl. Jack, Lunas father, describes his son as sick. Patrice, their mother, does not seem to take any meaningful action to show her support for her son. I think having unsupportive parents is the worst feeling in the world. At the time Luna needs their emotional support, Jack and Patrice only try to influence the choice she has made; Jack tries to influence Liam into masculine sporting activities like basketball and soccer (p.8-10). In real life, some parents attempt to put their children in certain environments so as to develop particular affiliations they believe would define their gender roles. Having ones childrens needs at heart sounds noble, but having children pursue their wishes in life sometimes is the most splendid idea.
Peters use of Regan as the narrator of Luna shows how well she understands her sister more than any of the parents can. It is creative to have Regan, and not Luna herself to narrate the story. It is because she accompanies Luna to almost everywhere: school, shopping malls, home and even the basement. Peters decision to use her as the central narrator and not Luna herself is probably supported by the need to see transgender individuals from the perspective of the society. Regans narration of Lunas story, on the other hand, shows sibling closeness that personalizes both of their experiences. For example, Regan feels Lunas pain when the latter is unfairly picked at the mall and feels sorry for her. "Oh God. Luna., I'm sorry." (p.101). The pains they both go through make Regan realize her responsibility to protect her brother. Readers of this story all feel Lunas pains through Regan.
The names of their school and town, Your Average All-American High School and your average all-American town depict the general social environments that the siblings are part of. The ill treatments that Luna undergo in school such as when Hoyt raised his arm and ripped off Luna's wig. Clumps of Liam's hair tore out with the bobby pins and then The girls above them eyed each other and giggled (p.118) represent how the society treats transgender persons with prejudice. The school environment is a microcosm of the society where people do all they can to fit in the popular crowd. When Luna stands out and displays her personality and gender, people react as if they have just witnessed an abnormality and so need to freak out. Lunas identity, as so, and not as Liam, highlights her ardent quest to face her fears on the journey to her true sexual identity.
ONeills house where the story is set, especially the basement, is representative of Lunas confinement where she and Regan have to live within the family rules. The basement and Regans room are the only places where Luna feels free to reveal her real self. The basement is her refuge in the house, a place she creates a space of her own, a cocoon of self-expression that her father would not fathom. She hides all her girly things in the basement and not anywhere else as she painfully struggles with an identity that only Regan understands. Liams secret remained locked in a treasure chest.' That's what he called it the locked steamer trunk that contained his life such as his desired life, the clothes and the makeup. He even wired the trunk with an alarm system (p. 105). The chest is symbolic a secret identity or self.
There is no better way to show childrens disappointment in their parents than how Regan does when she learns that their mother knew about Lunas condition and did nothing to help or support her. Patrice and Jacks reactions are unfair when Luna asks them both to bless her transition during her eighteenth birthday celebration. Patrice walks out on Luna while her father gets insulting. Regan gets so furious with her mother that her emotions vibrate through her choice of words: My mother was a monster.?(p. 228)
Peters incorporates family conflicts and the tensions that arise in the middles of crisis. Regan and Lunas sibling romance comes to test when Luna agrees to fill in for Regan at the Masters where Regan has a babysitting job. The conflict arises when Luna is found dressed in a negligee dress, prompting him to be fired and Regan loses her job in the process. Angered by this, Regan becomes angry at Luna for acting the way she did, and emotional tensions rise between them. But, once again, Regan calms herself down and allows the familial ties take the course because she has a responsibility to love and protect Luna despite everything that happens. Once more, Peters intent is to show that despite what a family undergoes, love and care remain a pain balm. On the other hand, Patrices relationship with Jack is built on fear that if Jack realizes Liams struggles with sexuality, he will throw him out of the family. Both parents had been involved in a fight that rings in Regans memory (p.136). Lots of instances have been heard and read the world over, where parents have thrown their sons and daughters out of their homes due to their sexuality. Similarly, in some countries, the minorities forming the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) community have lived in fear of laws restricting their lives, until recently. Some parents have stood by their children in the face of ridicule for their sexuality.
Acceptance rounds up Peters themes in her book. All that Liam wishes for is acceptance as Luna, of her family, friends, peers and the society at large. Regan unconditionally loves Liam for who he is: her sister. Alternatively, Liam is envious of his sister because he wants to be the only girl in their family; he feels like a girl inside. At last, when the time is right, Luna wakes Regan in the middle of the night to escort her to the airport for a plane to Seattle. She plans to go live with a fellow transgender friend, Teri Lynn, to begin her surgical operation to alter her gender (p.186). Regan receives the news with profound dejection but finds comfort in the fact that she loves and only wants happiness for her brother, as she reflects Yeah, I loved her. I couldn't help it. She was my brother. (p.23) A Lunas departure grants Regan a chance to focus on her own life. Separations like these are common in life as people tend to detach themselves from family and pursue their dreams and begin a new life.
Peters, J. A. (2004). Luna: A novel. New York: Little, Brown.
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