Too Bright to See

by Kyle Lukoff (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

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.

Select format:
$8.54 $8.99

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

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.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

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., OR

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"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

Kyle Lukoff

Kat Uno was born and raised in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. She was influenced at an early age by comics, Saturday morning cartoons, and Japanese manga. She attended the University of Hawaii and received a Bachelor of Arts. Kat loves creating artwork that is cute and fun. She is the mother of two wonderful little kids who are a constant source of inspiration. Visit her online at

KYLE LUKOFF is a National Book Award finalist and the Newbery and Stonewall Award-winning author of multiple books for young readers, including When Aidan Became a Brother, Call Me Max, and Too Bright to See. Kyle spent eight years as an elementary school librarian, but now he writes full time, assists in sensitivity readings and consultations, and presents on children's and youth literature all across the country. He got hired at a bookstore when he was sixteen, which means he's been working at the intersection of books and people for well over half his life. He lives in Philadelphia. Visit him online at

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Dial Books
Publication date
April 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039020 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Adolescence
JUV018000 - Juvenile Fiction | Horror
JUV069000 - Juvenile Fiction | Ghost Stories
JUV060000 - Juvenile Fiction | LGBT
Library of Congress categories
Ghost stories
Best friends
Horror fiction
Domestic fiction
Gender identity
Middle school students
Transgender children
Transgender fiction
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books starred, 05/01/21
Newbery Medal
Honor Book 2022
Stonewall Book Award
Winner 2022
ALSC Notable Children's Book
Selection 2022

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!