I don’t know if the title of Kyle Lukoff’s debut middle-grade novel Too Bright to See (2021) was inspired by Lesléa Newman’s Too Far Away to Touch (1998), but I sure am curious. Both books explore a child’s relationship with their amazing gay uncle. Both books are haunted by love and loss. However, the ghosts in Too Bright to See actually move things.
This book swept me away. I loved the eleven-year protagonist, Bug, and Bug’s realistic relationship to their mother and best friend. I loved the setting of the book, in rural Vermont, as well as its positive depiction of LGBTQ acceptance. I loved the way makeup belongs to drag queens and eleven-year-old girls equally.
Lukoff created a multilayered ghost story that is at once breathtakingly complex and astonishingly accessible. He manages to weave topics ranging from gender identity and grief to financial precarity and loneliness with grace and maturity. More impressively, he does this in a way that is sure to appeal to middle-grade readers.
Lukoff’s characters are loyal and kind, fierce and flawed. As sad as the story sometimes gets, as alone as the characters sometimes are, hope and love permeate each page, creating a soft safety net that allows each character space and confidence to grow.
Buy this book for everyone you know. Share it with your family, friends, and students. Let it sweep you away.