Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father's closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there's much more to his family's past than he ever imagined. Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family's blessing to pursue the career he's always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny's lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can't stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan. When Danny digs deeper into his parents' past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed fa ade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.
Picture Us in the LightFeatured
Danny Cheng appears to have it all--a tight-knit group of friends, a full ride to his school of choice, artistic talent, and parents who adore him. Danny Cheng also has a lot of secrets, and those secrets, though buried deep, keep him awake at night. Danny's parents, it turns out, have secrets of their own, and as Danny begins to shine light on both his secrets and theirs, his life starts to unravel in unexpected ways.
PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT by Kelly Loy Gilbert is a book that seamlessly examines many topical issues with subtlety, sensitivity, and honesty. Immigration, suicide, the stress of the college application process, parental pressure, international adoptions, family dynamics, teen love, and friendships (and much more!) are all covered in this terrific novel, but no one aspect of it can define the book. In that respect in particular I think the book reflects real life beautifully.
Danny is a character who is not afraid of introspection, and he's unflinching in his sometimes too-harsh assessment of himself. HIs parents and friends are as well-drawn as he is, and the plot follows Danny's senior year and his many revelations and discoveries while building the back story that leads to the climax. There isn't a character in the book who doesn't feel real, and although some of the secrets in PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT aren't well hidden from the reader, the ways in which they're revealed are well done. The pacing is sometimes a bit slow--particularly when Danny indulges in his inner conflicts--but I was so invested in Danny and company that I didn't mind that too much.
Kudos to Kelly Loy Gilbert for a fantastic book with great characters. I highly recommend it to darn near everyone. My thanks to YA Books Central and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Many different issues examined
Feels Like I Read it Already
I tried, but I just could not finish this book. I could only make it to chapter three. It is way too similar to several books that I have recently read, i.e. Starfish, (and I enjoyed those books so much more than this one). Asian boy wants to be an artist and struggles with finding himself as an artist. He also meets a potential teacher/ inspiration and I felt like he was not going to take her advice. I feel like there was probably a lot more to this story, especially with the main character's friends and parents, but I just could not get there. Maybe if the book led with what happened to their friend group (which I did not get to) I would have enjoyed it more? The story was going along really slowly and the prologue really confused me.