Review Detail

Kids Fiction 59
1980s LGBTQIA+ Issues
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Bug (Beatrice) is looking forward to spending the summer of 1987 hanging out at Venice Beach with her older brother Daniel, just like they have for the past several years. When Danny wants more "space", their mother decides that she will instead have to hang out at their apartment. One neighbor, Hedvig, watches out for her, as does Phillip. When Phillip's nephew, Frankie, shows up from Ohio to spend the summer, Bug is expected to hang out with him, even though he doesn't like the beach. Instead, he is enthralled by the Midnight Marauder, who is terrorizing the area, bludgeoning unsuspecting victims. Bug's mother works for the local mayor's office, and keeps assuring them that they are safe, but they doubt her. When gangs of skinheads threaten Bug and her brother because of his Salvadoran looks, and Phillip is beaten up because he is gay, safety seems like a precarious state. Frankie becomes more comfortable in his new environment, and it turns out that he was sent to live with Phillip to get some "nonsense out of his system"-- Frankie is transgender, and wasn't even aware that there was a word for how he identified until he meets others like him in the area. When Aunt Teri comes to watch Bug (and reluctantly, Frankie), family secrets come out, and Bug must learn to make peace with her judgmental aunt and learn to support her new friend.
Good Points
There are a growing number of books addressing LGBTQIA+ issues in the 1980s, including Papademtriou's Apartment 1986 and Pixley's Trowbridge Road, and it's interesting to see this issue from a historical perspective. It's hard for younger readers to understand just how much things have changed. AIDS doesn't make the news quite as much today, but was certainly a huge concern at the time, and unfortunately, the views of this disease resulted in the mistreatment of the gay population. I did appreciate that Ryan White was mentioned as someone who was affected by this disease through a blood transfusion.

Bug's desire to hang out on the beach and explore her world might be novel to young readers who are never allowed out of the house without direct adult supervision, and the idea that Danny could be out because he was a boy will also be an indication that this is historical fiction. The vibrant culture of Venice Beach during this period of history is nicely explained, and while I'm not sure the Midnight Marauder was an actual person, the inclusion of this mystery is certainly in keeping with the news of the time.

Readers who enjoyed Lisa Bunker's Zenobia July or Gephardt's Lily and Dunkin and the sense of supportive community depicted in those books will find Bug's summer of growth and change an interesting time to visit.
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