Title: Too Bright to See
Author: Kyle Lukoff
Genre: Paranormal Middle Grade Fiction
Number of Pages: 192
Bug is a transgender boy who’s still trying to come to terms with his gender identity, while mourning the death of his gay Uncle Roderick. It is not abnormal for Bug to feel presences and minor hauntings, and even though his Uncle Roderick believed him and had similar experiences his mom isn’t superstitious at all. Bug is friends with a girl named Moira who doesn’t know about his gender identity and his trying to get him more into ‘girly’ stuff, but Bug seems ambivalent about their friendship. When he starts being haunted by his uncle, he struggles to find out what Uncle Roderick wants and how to put his spirit to rest.
My favorite thing about this book was Bug’s character. I could really relate to his overwhelming feelings of disassociation and feeling isolated from his peers. I also liked how he narrated scenes from his own life like it was a story (when in actuality, it is a story.) I used to do that a lot when I was a kid (‘Sarah went to the kitchen and got an apple,’ that kind of thing) and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book before where the main character did that. This book is #ownvoices but one thing about the transgender storyline I guess I didn’t really understand was the suddenness of Bug’s realization that he’s transgender.
He spends most of the book never really fitting in anywhere (which isn’t uncommon for cis or trans young people) and saying he ‘knows he’s a girl’ and ‘he knows he not trans’ and then all of a sudden he shaves his head and it’s like ‘Eureka! I’m transgender! I’m going to middle school as my authentic self and maybe start looking into hormones!’ I think there should have been more of a progression to the point where Bug came out as a trans boy instead of one haircut bringing an abrupt end to his questioning.
I liked this book overall and I enjoyed the way the supernatural is part of the everyday of Bug’s life and how people don’t judge him for being able to sense spirits or being transgender. It wasn’t one of my favorite transgender-themed books but it was surprisingly gentle and is a good pick for people who want trans themes without darker elements like bullying and parental rejection.