Having read f2m: the boy within, I decided that I should get on and read Luna by Julie Anne Peters [buy isbn=”9780316011273″] as well. It is a rather more famous book, being published in the US and having been a National Book Award finalist. It is also a very different book.
To begin with, Luna appears to me to be more emotionally intense. I’m not a great expert on YA books, but it felt to me that that book was aimed at slightly older kids, despite the fact that the characters in the two books are round the same age (late teens). Alternatively it could simply be that Hazel Edwards is used to writing for younger kids, and carried some of that over into f2m.
The more crucial difference, however, is that Luna isn’t really about a trans kid, it is about her sister. The story is told from the point of view of Regan, who is younger than Luna but is forced into the role of responsible adult thanks to Luna’s emotional turmoil and the dysfunctional behavior of their parents.
To some extent the book is an accurate portrayal of the emotional problems that accompany transition (and believe me that can mess up the strongest individual), but at the same time I spent a lot of time thinking that the characters were getting pushed around by the author in order to create increased, and probably unnecessary, drama. There are times when the book does the traditional farce thing of setting up a potential disaster and then ensuring that every character does exactly the necessary stupid thing to make it happen.
The problem with this, of course, is that the book could easily be seen as giving out the message that having a trans sibling is a total pain the butt and the sooner you can get rid of her and get your own life back the better. This is not a helpful message to be sending.
The book will undoubtedly be devoured by MtF teens — because let’s face it trans people are inveterate devourers of other people’s transition narratives when they are trying to make their minds up what to do with their lives — but even there it may be somewhat troublesome. Luna’s easy access to money never quite rang true to me, and the vast majority of trans teens simply won’t have that safety net. Consequently Luna’s story is of rather less help than f2m, where poor Finn makes do with part time work and is always short of cash.
Having said all that, simply having a book like Luna out in the world is of enormous benefit to trans people everywhere. It gets the message out that being trans is something that happens to ordinary, well-educated kids. Peters also does a good job of showing how Luna knew she was a girl from a very early age, and that any half-intelligent parent should have spotted the signs and could have done something about it, although the reactions of Luna’s parents are much more typical of what trans kids can still expect. In some ways Luna is a horror story of how badly parents, and expectations of gender roles, can mess up kids’ lives.