A haunting ghost story about navigating grief, growing up, and growing into a new gender identity.
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. But none of this is all that appealing to Bug, who doesn't particularly want to spend more time trying to understand how to be a girl.
Besides, there's something more important to worry about: A ghost is haunting Bug's eerie old house in rural Vermont...and maybe haunting Bug in particular. As Bug begins to untangle the mystery of who this ghost is and what they're trying to say, an altogether different truth comes to light--Bug is transgender.
In this gently paced debut novel by Lukoff (When Aidan Became a Brother), 11-year-old Bug, a transgender boy, is having a difficult summer. His beloved uncle Roderick, a former drag queen who lived with Bug and his single mother for years, has just died after a long illness, and Bug's remote Vermont house, which has always been haunted, has gained a new ghostly resident--one that seems intent on sending Bug a message. As Bug's mother struggles to pay bills and hold onto the white family's home, Bug's best and only friend, Moira, grows intent on giving Bug a feminine makeover before middle school starts, something that Bug grows increasingly uncomfortable with. As he investigates the ghost, he grows closer to the truth of his own identity. Lukoff makes smart and thought-provoking use of the ghost story framework to reflect narrator Bug's experiences as a trans boy, using genuinely creepy horror elements to portray dysphoria and societally enforced femininity. Through Bug's journey to self-realization and self-acceptance, and the wonderfully nuanced understanding of gender he comes to, Lukoff provides a tender rumination on grief, love, and identity. Ages 10-up. Agent: Saba Sulaiman, Talcott Notch Literary. (Apr.)Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Gr 4-7--Lukoff's (When Aidan Became a Brother) middle grade debut is a deeply empathetic exploration of grief and gender identity through the eyes of Bug. The summer before Bug starts middle school, things are rough. Bug's beloved Uncle Roderick passed away from a difficult illness and the family business is in trouble. Bug's longtime best friend is excited about makeup and boys, but these things don't resonate with Bug, and a rift begins to form between the friends. With all this change and grief comes a much different problem: Bug is being haunted, and not by the innocuous spirits that typically inhabit their home. Lukoff's three primary themes--gender identity, grief, and ghostly hauntings--work in elegant harmony despite the load. Lukoff navigates Bug's journey of identity and discovery with grace, welcoming readers in so they can learn along with Bug in real time. Those readers focusing more on the haunting aspects of the story won't be disappointed and can expect multiple goosebump-worthy moments. In a brief author's note, Lukoff provides guidance in regards to both Bug (pronouns, etc.) and the book when recommending it to others. While some potential readers may hesitate at mixing ghosts and gender, Lukoff's portrayal is sensitive, hopeful, and effective. The cast generally adheres to the white default; Bug's family and classmates share diverse LGBTQIA+ identities. VERDICT A hopeful examination of grief and gender, and a good ghost story to boot. Recommended as a first purchase for all libraries.--Taylor Worley, Springfield P.L., ORCopyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
"This coming-of-age and coming-out story takes a needed departure from other stories about transgender youth....A chilling, suspenseful ghost story balances the intimate, introspective narrative style....Haunting and healing." -Kirkus, starred review
"Equal parts unsettling, heartwarming, and satisfying...a nuanced and compelling exploration of gender, friendship, and family." -Booklist, starred review
Lukoff's three primary themes—gender identity, grief, and ghostly hauntings—work in elegant harmony despite the load. Lukoff navigates Bug's journey of identity and discovery with grace, welcoming...A hopeful examination of grief and gender, and a good ghost story to boot. -School Library Journal, starred review
When we talk about wanting to see a diverse range of books for kids, this is precisely what we should be thinking of.... Smart. Original. Necessary. " -Betsy Bird, Fuse8
"Bug's first-person, present-tense narration gives readers a close look at his sense that things don't quite fit....and his gradual understanding of why that is." -The Horn Book