Written By: Guest Author Jeanne Rutgers
As a reading teacher I’m always looking for ways to explain to students
the difference between plot and theme. The plot of the novel Luna
by Julie Peters is about a teenage girl, Regan O’Neil, coming to
terms with her brother, Liam, being transgender. The theme of the book
is, if you can’t be yourself you will die. I don’t think I have ever read
another book with such a powerful theme.
Regan keeps Liam’s true identity secret. She purchases his female
clothes, lets him use her make-up, and allows him all night access to her
bedroom mirror to look at his female self. Because Regan guards her
brother’s secret so closely, she denies herself access to her own social
life. She cannot have true friends while she partakes is such a huge lie.
Real friends tell each other the truth and she isn’t ready to do that.
Both Regan and Liam hold themselves prisoners in their lies.
Liam’s inability to live as himself creates tension for the whole family.
He cannot be the son his father wants him to be. He fabricates lies about
sports and dating. While he shares nothing with his father, in many ways
he is on a parallel journey with his mom, who feels trapped in her role as
Luna gave me a glimpse into the life of a transgender teen. The
lead character Regan describes what life was like for her brother. “He
told me once there was no place for him in world, that he didn’t fit
anywhere….Boy by day, girl by night. Except, he was a girl all the time,
inside…His body betrayed him.” (pg 51) This passage spoke volumes to me.
I have always believed that the key to happiness is to be comfortable in
your own skin. But what must life be like if your soul is betrayed by
Even more telling than the descriptions of the feelings of a transgender
teen, was the heartbreaking details of Liam’s life. Liam destroys all
pictures of his male self and refuses to keep a mirror in his bedroom
because he can’t stand to accidentally see himself as male.
Luna was a 2005 Stonewall Honor Book, and Lambda Literary Award
Finalist, and the winner of the 2005 Colorado Book Award for Young Adult
Literature. As a Colorado resident I was very proud that Luna
received the award. However a member of my book club, who had not read
Luna felt certain that the only reason it won the award was
because it was “controversial.” I did my best to explain that Luna wasn’t
a sex novel. It is about the importance of self acceptance, love and
living honestly. She replied that she would never let her daughter read
such a book. I feel very sorry for her daughter. We all need to hear
Written as part of our site article swap. Thanks Jeanne!
Jason P. Ruel
BellaOnline's Gay Lesbiand and HIV/AIDS Editor