Still reeling from the death of their uncle, eleven-year-old Bug is struggling to move on.With the imminent move into middle school and their mother’s failing business eating away at them, Bug’s best friend thinks it’s best to focus on preparing for change. She does this by growing their friend group and teaching herself about make-up and boys. But Bug can hardly focus on their feelings about this change when they realize the ghost of their uncle is trying to tell them something.
Why this book?: Something about the summary caught my eye while I was looking for a new audiobook to read from my library. It was most likely the part about gender identity. I decided to pick it up on a whim, having never heard of this book or the author before.
Normally, when I pick out random books from my library’s eclectic catalog, I expect something to be mildly entertaining but nothing special. I’ll often pick out books I’ve never heard of in order add variety to the books I read, and I often find books that are fun to read but nothing I would find myself to pick up again and again. It’s a good place to find new books, but not necessarily if you’re trying to find a new favorite. This time, though, was different.
When I first started To Bright to See, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was going to be about. We get hinted to about ghosts and struggling friendships and gender identity and processing grief in the summary. And at first, I was concerned that the author bit off more then he could chew. It seemed like a lot to try and tackle in a book that wasn’t even 200 pages, and I was prepared to witness one or more of these threads being lost in the shuffle. Instead, I was blown out of the water. Lukoff expertly weaves all of these different plot threads together, making a gorgeous tapestry depicting a young kid going through a hard time. Bug has so much going on in this book and never once did it seem like one was being developed further then the other. The author was even able to put in more in this book that worked perfectly with what was already going on, bringing in the discussion of a struggling family business and the threat of having to move. Each scene went into the next naturally, delicately examining the various topics and showing them in conversation with one another and how it affected Bug.
My favorite part, though, is probably how well they all worked together. As Bug processed their grief, they also struggled with the return of their uncle’s ghost and what he wanted from them. As they struggled to figure out what their uncle wanted, they struggled with fitting in with their friends and realized the questions it brought up within them. Everything interacted with everything else, allowing for an intense and nuanced discussion of how all of these different struggles can and will affect someone.
Another thing I loved is how natural and real the characters felt. Even Bug’s uncle, who passed before the book started, we got to know so well through Bug’s memories and love for him. And Moira, Bug’s best friend, was also such a complicated character especially in relation to how her and Bug’s relationship started and how it’s going. Bug’s mother was so genuine and direct, and I couldn’t get over how loving Bug’s family was for them. But not even just the characters, but Bug’s internal conflict really put the cherry on top of this entire book. You can literally watch Bug slowly figure out what is bothering them and why these things are affecting them as the book progresses with the other plot threads. And as the realization slowly hit them, I could just feel my heart breaking. It was such a familiar feeling and one that I had struggled to express as well, so reading it put so clearly on page was so impactful. Lukoff put a lot of emotion into this book, and it was an emotion that I needed to feel and recognize.
Final Rating: ★★★★★
Kyle Lukoff chose several topics that were a heavy lift for just one book. Instead of struggling to fit everything in that he wanted, he was able to thoroughly discuss and examine each piece with realistic and lovely characters in a gorgeous setting. All of this doesn’t even go into how much I loved the development of the piece and characters and how it was so obvious the love the Lukoff put into this piece. In the end, Too Bright to See introduced me to a new author that I need to keep an eye on, and one of my newest favorite queer children’s books that I would recommend alongside the likes of Melissa by Alex Gino.
Would I Recommend?
If you read this entire review and think I wouldn’t highly recommend this book to literally anyone and everyone, then maybe I wasn’t clear enough. Too Bright to See is a book I wish I had when I was younger. Too Bright to See is a much needed book for queer and questioning kids that are struggling to figure themselves out. I will continue to recommend this book until every kid that struggles with who they are finally has every single resource they need to be able to thoroughly and safely figure themselves out.
So, yes. I do highly recommend this book.
Published: April 20, 2021
Publisher: Dial Books
Page Count: 188
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Synopsis: via Goodreads
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.