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Literature / Too Bright to See

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Too Bright to See is a 2021 middle grade novel by Kyle Lukoff.

Eleven-year-old Bug's uncle Roderick has just died, leaving Mom and Bug alone in their old house in rural Vermont. Bug suffers from strange and vivid nightmares and starts to think that a ghost is trying to leave a message. Meanwhile, Bug's best friend Moira wants the two of them to learn how to be pretty and feminine in time for the start of sixth grade, but it all makes Bug feel sick and uncomfortable. Bug gradually realizes the truth - he's not a girl, but a transgender boy.

Too Bright to See contains examples of:

  • Drag Queen: Uncle Roderick was a drag queen who went by Anita Life.
  • Happy Rain: Moira loves rain, and drags Bug out to dance in a storm. At first Bug doesn't want to because his clothes are really uncomfortable when they're soaked, but once he's outside, he starts to relax and enjoy spinning with Moira.
  • Haunted House: Bug's house has always been haunted. There's a cold spot where someone died, doors that randomly open and shut, rocking chairs that creak by themselves, and a general feeling of other people being present. Uncle Roderick believed in ghosts and taught Bug how to recognize them, while Mom is more skeptical. The ghost currently haunting Bug is the only one to actually try to change anything or get a living person's attention - all the other ghosts don't even seem to be aware of people.
  • Meaningful Rename: Bug eventually picks his new name: Tommy, after Roderick's middle name, Thomas.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Bug hates his legal name, presumably because it's too girly, and never says what it is.
  • Ouija Board: Bug and Moira use one in an attempt to contact the ghost. All they get is a string of nonsense letters. But when Bug tries using the board again when he's alone, the planchette starts moving rapidly by itself, spelling out coherent messages.
  • Parental Substitute: Bug was raised by Mom and Uncle Roderick after his dad died in a car crash when he was a few months old.
  • Poltergeist: The ghost does things like turn the TV and radio on and off, mess up Bug's room, and leave Uncle Roderick's high school yearbook in one of Bug's drawers.
  • Ransacked Room: Bug wakes up from a nightmare to find that the ghost has completely trashed his room - the drawers completely pulled out, clothes flung around the room, the bookshelf upended, and the lamp lying on it side.
  • Surprise Party: On Bug's twelfth birthday, he bikes over to Moira's house to find all her friends singing "Happy Birthday," with balloons and a cake.
  • Title Drop: "Trying to picture myself as a teenage girl is like staring at the sun, too bright to see, and it hurts."
  • Too Unhappy to Be Hungry: On the day of Uncle Roderick's funeral, Bug pushes food around on the plate, only eating tiny bites. Mom does the same.