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When we begin Too Bright to See, Bug, our first-person narrator, is a twelve-year-old kid living with Bug's mother Sabrina, in an old house in rural Vermont that is haunted, according to Bug and Sabrina's brother Roderick. Bug's mother is an artist who makes a living by designing humorous condolence cards, for instance, this one,
'The fill-in-the-blank cards are the simplest ones Mom has ever made, and the best sellers. They’re plain white, and the cover says “I’m Sorry That Your _____ Died.” The inside type reads “It Really Sucks.”'
How Sabrina and Bug mourn is not unimportant, because Uncle Roderick has just died. A year ago Roderick lived with Bug and Sabrina in the big old haunted house, too, but for the last year he has been in hospital and hospice. You might be inclined to expect a gloomy book, but it isn't, not really. Bug is not a gloomy person, or, for that matter, a cheerful one, or exuberant. Bug is a quiet, introspective kid, whom Sabrina describes thus,
“Oh, Bug's team dead trees. Bug just wants to read, you know that. Has a teacher ever assigned a book you haven’t already read?”
I really enjoyed Too Bright to See, mainly because I enjoyed Bug's inner narrative. Being inside Bug's head for an few hours is a calming experience. Some people may find the book slow, but I didn't, because I enjoyed the time spent with Bug. Bug is unusually self-aware for a twelve-year-old (or for an adult, for that matter). The story of Too Bright to See is a ghost story, but also a mystery. In fact, my only real criticism is that it takes Bug too long to figure the mystery out. I suppose Lukoff does this to stretch out dramatic tension, but you will figure out the mystery long before the big reveal, and I think Bug would have, too, if not impeded by an author who didn't want to get there yet.
I would like to tell you what the title Too Bright to See means, but I can't do that without spoiling the mystery. So you'll have to read it yourself to find out.
"The weeks stretch out in front of me, slow and hot, the finish line shimmering like a mirage. I don't know who I'll be when I cross over."
This heart-breaking and beautiful middle grade novel follows 11 year old Bug as they prepare to start middle school, grieve for their beloved uncle, and try to figure out who they are.
This story explores grief in a heartfelt and honest way. Specifically the grief for a death that was not sudden but expected and no less heart-breaking for it. It begins shortly after the death of Bug's uncle who was a parental figure in their life. We see how Bug deals with, and doesn't deal with their grief, throughout the beginning of the book.
It discusses feeling like you don't fit in and aren't able to be a proper "girl" in a way that seems to come easily to most of your peers - a feeling that was very familiar to me as a transgender man. It also features a trans character who didn't always know which is a common narrative that doesn't apply to many of us. Bug doesn't always know but when they figure out who they are everything else makes sense in hindsight.
Overall I felt this was an honest and heartful look at both grief and transgender identity that felt true to life and was beautifully written. I'd highly recommend it to children and adults alike.
I’ve now purchased 3 copies of this book. One for myself, one for the teachers I work with, and one for a transgender child. Here are the important takeaways from the book: 1. Transgender persons are human too and deserve kindness and acceptance just as much as anyone else. They also deserve representation.
2. If you’re too stupid to understand that the synopsis is a very short, very condensed description of the book and isn’t going to share all the details of why a person may feel like their body is not their own or is different from their inner self, then you should probably just shut up and move on to review books that you have in fact read instead of publicly declaring your ignorance and idiocy in an online review.
3. This book is needed in the world right now. Fear and hate and close-mindedness are growing and books like this one are the only way to combat it.
4. It’s a well-written, wonderfully expressed story that the author has pulled from his own experiences to write. He does a great job illustrating the struggles many of our kids are facing right now. And he does it in a way that will appeal to people who are open-minded enough to be willing to challenge their own perceptions by picking it up and reading it.
For those reasons, I’d gladly purchase a hundred more copies to send out into the world!
Beautiful story that made me cry and I relate to so many things Bug goes through. Even though I’m too old to read a book like this, I enjoyed the story and parts of it were very touching.
The only thing that bothered me was that there wasn’t even a hint of doubt when Bug realises that he’s a boy. Up to this point in the book I felt like it was very similar to my childhood (except for the circumstances) and reading all the “signs” I just went “yep that’s me” but when I got to the point when he knows he’s trans, I thought “how can he suddenly be 100% sure and not even question it?”
I know that isn’t a real reason to give only 4 stars but I bought this book for myself because I’m questioning and while I loved the story, it didn’t really help me because I’m still not 100% sure. But I’m more sure than before.
From the haunted house to the loving relationships, this book is a must read. It is a great conversation opener for this topic, and is introduced very effectively. A must read for parents and kids alike.