A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Nods to LGBTQ+ support groups (PFLAG) and literature are mentioned, as is the definition of what a transgender person is, and what they are not.
Face your fears. Talk with people who can support you when you need help. Build a team of allies. Be yourself. Explore new ideas, but remain true to who you are. Trust that you'll find your people. It feels good to be honest. Love yourself. Your true friends will understand you -- or at least will try to understand. Trust your inner wisdom.
Positive Role Models
Bug's mom is a hardworking, understanding parent whose empathetic style allows Bug to feel safe and loved. Bug's Uncle Roderick is one of Bug's favorite people -- s/he moved to Vermont to help raise Bug, even though as a drag performer, s/he needed to be in a big city to reach an audience. Roderick really sees Bug, helping Bug develop into the person they were meant to be.
There's diversity in the gender and LGBTQ+ range of representation, but there's not a lot of reference to teachers, students, or friends from different cultural or ethnic groups, besides a new boy whose last name is Latino. The majority of characters are presumed White.
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Violence & Scariness
Some scares, but no blood. Bug's house is haunted, which is explored throughout the story. Doors slam, breezes ruffle linens, unexplainable cold spots persist in rooms. A Ouija board is used to contact the dead. Descriptions of poltergeist in action can be scary, but the characters come through unscathed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are frank conversations about sexual orientation and gender (a character is gay, some characters are transgender), but there are no descriptions of sexual behavior.
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Products & Purchases
YouTube, National Geographic magazine, The New Yorker, Hello Kitty, Edgar Allen Poe, American Girl dolls, Band-Aid, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Velveeta, Ouija, Hot Topic, H&M, Target, Goldfish crackers, Jacuzzi, Babysitter's Club, Barbie, Time magazine, PFLAG.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Too Bright to See is a 2022 Newbery Honor Book. It's a coming-of-age story couched in a horror novel. There are some poltergeist moments that can be frightening, but there's no blood or violence. Twelve-going-on-thirteen-year-old Bug lives in rural Vermont. Bug's Uncle Roderick has just died, and Bug's life feels like it's falling apart. Uncle Roderick was a drag queen, whose glittery dresses and campy name ("Anita Life") brought light and joy to Bug's life. Now that Uncle Roderick is dead, Bug is left with some big questions about identity, fitting in, and discovering what it feels like to be at home in a haunted house, and in a body that feels foreign. Too Bright to See also won one of the 2022 American Library Association's Stonewall Awards.
Is It Any Good?
Picking up pace as it develops, a frightening story addresses an intensely personal issue. In Too Bright to See, the metaphor of living in a haunted house is mirrored in the experiences of characters who don't feel at home in their own bodies. Gender identity is explored in a way that helps binary readers understand the nonbinary experience in an artful manner.
Though the haunting lacks the spooky suspenseful realism of a Stephen King novel, there are moments where the possibility of poltergeist feels real. The ending wraps things up a little too neatly, too. But what shines through in this story is the love that Bug's Uncle Roderick left as a legacy. The longing for acceptance, the tenderness that one outsider has for another, the desire to be set free of a burden that nobody asks for -- are a twinkle in Anita Life's heavily made-up eyes. Those wishes feel like a legacy that deserves to be passed on to the next generation of readers who might see themselves in this book.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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