book not-quite-reviews: Parrotfish and Luna

thoughtgoddess's picture

So you know when you first start coming out and you try to read allll the queer teen books ever? And then you realize how bad most queer young adult lit is? Yeah. So I've been experiencing a bit of a renaissance for no particular reason I can pin down. Possibly extreme boredom.

Today we’re going to talk about Luna and Parrotfish and my completely personal unresearched opinions on them with which no one has to agree or disagree, etc. I trust you can all google summaries on your own, and I warn you there might be tiny spoilers, though nothing that would ruin the books by any means. These are also not really reviews and not particularly well-written, because migraines make everything harder to do.

Parrotfish: I’d had a print copy of this book sitting on my shelf for literally years, and finally a few weeks ago I admitted to myself ‘this book’s never getting scanned’, so I sucked it up and bought the audio version off of iTunes. Usually I’m not a fan of audio books because they go too slowly in comparison with reading e-text with a screenreader, but I was pretty bored, so I decided to give it a try. And I’m glad I did. This book was different from a lot of queer YA books in that the main character, Grady (no I will not look up the spelling) knew, in general, what he was doing. It wasn’t an ‘zomg what are these feelings?!’ story, as much as a story about other people’s reaction to a trans character. It’s a good book in that it demonstrates self-advocacy, how life continues around one even when one’s identity seems the focal point of one’s existence. It’s filled with all sorts of high school clichés (there is a dance, you guys) but in general the story is well-paced. The main character doesn’t hesitate to question beyond the gender binary, nor does he always deal with situations in a perfect way. The author does a good job of showing the logic and reasoning behind all the main character’s decisions even while the reader can take a step back and see how they might not be the best ones. There were moments where I thought the main character was making a bigger deal of things than necessary, but that could be my natural instincts to never make a fuss about things coming through. All in all, I enjoyed the book more than I expected, and I’d recommend it to any readers, really.

Luna: So I have to admit, I didn’t go out and choose this book specifically to read, but I found it in the CNIB library (so much shaaaame, I can’t even) and the audio version was just a click away and free. So, you know, there’s me throwing out my bias. The first chapter of this book, I’m not going to lie to you, came across as a little creepy. Perhaps this was done intentionally (in fact, I’m almost certain it was) but Liam and Luna seem like two entirely separate people. Liam seems to be a semi-popular geek, while Luna has dreams of being prom-queen and going shopping, wearing dresses, etc. I had a hard time connecting the “two halves” of the character, and that really was how it was presented. I can’t help but think that this might encourage the traditional fear of cisgendered people who are scared that someone becomes an entirely new person when their gender doesn’t turn out to be what people assume. It really struck me as quite othering of gender variant people, honestly. Another thing that I found frustrating was the main protagonist, the narrator (Luna’s sister) was an incredibly difficult character with whom to sympathize. She seems a mass of contradictions with no focal point, no reasoning. A lot of the main character’s attitude and decisions are, again, perhaps logical from her point of view, but there’s a lot of trans-shaming in the narrative, often times not outright stated, but there in the attitude and text. There’s a giant issue of implied author vs. actual author, but I don’t know if younger readers or less aware readers would understand that fully, or even if there’s an understanding, it might be difficult to disassociate unconsciously. Even Luna plays into this, making completely illogical or out-of-character decisions seemingly to do nothing but move the plot along. It’s not a… bad book, but I’m not sure how comfortable I was reading it, simply because the Luna character doesn’t seem super believable. Again, I do get what the author is trying to do, showing the struggle of the younger sibling and doing it in a realistic way, but I think it could have been better handled.

So there you go. Yay books.

In other news, my head has hurt too much all day to listen to the new Cobra Starship album. My life. So hard, you guys.


loreonpravus's picture

Luna was the first LGBT book

Luna was the first LGBT book I ever read. I was fourteen. At the time, my impression was WOW GENDERFUCKERY and my little niner brain exploded. When I read that book I hadn't even met anybody gay (and out) yet; the struggle is what I identified with.

There's not a lot of queer teen fiction out there, which is unfortunate. A lot of it is... not so great, to put it kindly, but supply is limited. I read Empress of the world a while ago, and I thought it was pretty meh, but I have a very strong inkling that a younger me would've been all over it.

thoughtgoddess's picture

Ahaha, yes. I think when one

Ahaha, yes. I think when one is young and desperate for anything to read one's standards get skewed. The first queer book I read (with the intention of reading a queer book specifically) was... Annie On My Mind, maybe. Which is a terrible place to start, oh my god. /unpopular opinions. I was lucky that my first encounter with genderfuckery was people in real life, followed by a non-fiction book called, if I remember correctly, Living the T With Transgender Teenagers, or some such, followed by a semester of queer writing and gender and sexuality classes and more social constructionist theory than you can shake a stick at (though I'm still trying to get my hands on Bornstein's Gender Outlaw). I'm really hoping that as the world changes, the authors who want to write about queer issues in fiction become more comfortable doing so. Maybe now that generations who have grown up in a world where there's at least a shift towards acceptance are aging into adulthood there'll be more fiction that's realistic or relevant to the attitudes and changes in availability of information and community that things like the internet have given us, and how struggles themselves are changing. Not to discredit the fiction that's out there, but as a genre that a lot of queer youth goes for looking for a character or situation to which they can relate, I think it's important for the fiction to evolve with society.