For starters, all characters in this novel felt flat to me -- all stereotype and caricature; no real depth. I...moreThis book got under my skin in a big way.
For starters, all characters in this novel felt flat to me -- all stereotype and caricature; no real depth. In short, they were unlikable because there was nothing earnestly human about them -- their imperfections were forced rather than fluid (Regan's self-deprication, for example) and their conflicts were heavy-handed.
Liam/Luna is portrayed as an object in this novel, nothing more, and is extreeeeemely underdeveloped. Regan is supposed to be Luna's closest confidante and deeply connected to her in all ways -- and yet her narrative allows us little to no insight into Luna's traumas, therefore rendering said traumas to feel completely shallow and insincere. It really frustrated me to read yet another text about gender and sex (see: "What Happened to Lani Garver") that creates an inside/outside dichotomy, always placing the LGBTQ character on the outside, alienated from the narrator and therefore the reader. The reader is placed in the position of observer, totally removed from the experience of the character who is at the center of the plot, positioned in the head of the narrator who is watching as though on the other side of a glass wall. I get it, narrator -- having a transgender brother/sister/friend is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO hard for you and let's just all wade through how hard it is for you and why can't your brother/sister/friend just be normal and who is s/he anyways and oh my gosh why does she have to get bullied and take over my life and blah blah blah. How about a text that renders the transgender character as more than just a plot point for the crappy development of an obnoxious "oh my gosh I'm so ugly and stupid but oh wow this gorgeous boy is talking to me which means I must actually be beautiful and awesome and oh wow this sexist teacher thinks I have potential so I'm secretly really awesome at school and oh by the way my brother/sister/friend is just making all of that soooooo much more complicated!" protagonist. Gag.
And yes, I get it, Peters wanted to explore the difficulties of loving someone whose identity is not easy -- the tension between being for yourself and being for someone else -- the burden of carrying your own trauma as well as the traumas of someone you love -- and those intentions are great and honorable and all that. The problem is just that this book lacked all nuance and subtlety and just read like trashy, predictable teen lit.
I was left feeling as though this book posed itself as an insightful text into a sister -- and by extension, a family -- grappling with her brother's grappling with his sex, but the way Peters developed her characters only alienated me from their experiences. Plus, I thought the narration was overwrought and convenient, as was the resolution. Sigh. Maybe my expectations were too high, but this read like a book for people who don't really want to know what it's like to be trans, but to know what it's like to know someone who is. People who want to get close -- but not too close -- to understanding.
I don't want to think about why/how this became a finalist for a national book award.(less)