Too Bright to SeeToo Bright To See, by Kyle Lukoff. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2021.

It’s the summer before middle school and eleven-year-old Bug’s best friend Moira has decided the two of them need to use the next few months to prepare. For Moira, this means figuring out the right clothes to wear, learning how-to put-on makeup, and deciding which boys are cuter in their yearbook photos than in real life. None of this is appealing to Bug, who doesn’t want to spend more time trying to understand how to be a girl.

Quoting from the book:

I look through the magazines that Moira’s left at my house the past few months… I study the makeup tutorials like they are the Rosetta stone and try to figure out what’s going on in the tampon ads. My period hasn’t started yet, but it’ll happen eventually. Maybe that’s what I need, to actually start puberty, maybe then I’ll feel like a girl.

I try to imagine myself growing up like that, filling out a bra, caring about what my hair looks like. I can’t really imagine it. Trying to picture myself as a teenage girl is like staring at the sun, too bright to see, and it hurts. Thinking about being an adult, a woman, makes me feel like I’m looking up at the stars but there’s nothing holding me to the earth, and I might fly off into the void at any moment. A squirmy, itchy sensation starts to expand in my stomach. I know your stomach can’t itch from the inside, but that’s what it’s like.

Bug has something else to worry about too. A ghost is haunting Bug’s eerie old house in rural Vermont and seems to be haunting Bug in particular. The ghostly spirit seems intent on communicating something directly to Bug – but what? And why? Could this ghost have anything to do with Uncle Roderick, who died at the beginning of summer, and who Bug loved dearly and misses so much.

Author Kyle Lukoff writes, “When people ask what my book is about, I say, ‘It’s about a kid being haunted by the ghost of their dead uncle into figuring out something important. It’s kind of a scary story, and also a sad story, but with a mostly happy ending, and it’s about figuring out how to make friends, being who you are, and letting go of someone you love.’”

Listen as Kyle Lukoff reading a passage from the book:

Too Bright To See, received the 2022 American Library Association Stonewall Award. The Stonewall Award is given annually to English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the LGBTQ+ experience. It is also an American Library Association 2022 Newbery honor book and a 2021 Young People’s Literature National Book Award finalist.

This book review was submitted by Stand with Trans board member Barb Shumer, who is a retired public librarian.

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