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Picture Us in the Light

Review

Picture Us in the Light

From the author of CONVICTION, Kelly Loy Gilbert, comes PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT, the story of a queer Asian American boy named Danny Cheng, whose life is set for him when he receives a scholarship for his dream college. As he starts to finish his last year of high school, his parents start acting differently, and Danny’s dreams of college seem to be going down the drain. The closer Danny looks into his parents past, the clearer everything becomes clear for him, and when it does, he’ll have no choice but to reassess his entire life choices.

There’s a lot to like about PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was hoping to, I believe that it is a novel that has a lot to offer to readers. For starters, Danny Cheng is one of the most realistic main characters I’ve ever read about; he’s extremely flawed, and has some considerably unredeemable qualities, but is also is also honest in a way that doesn’t feel overdramatic. A lot of the novel has to do with Danny’s internal struggle of identity and daring to do the right thing, which I loved but did get a bit repetitive at certain plot points of the story. Danny’s voice was beautiful, and the intelligent clear-cut writing in the novel helped strengthen his voice even more.

"Danny’s voice was beautiful, and the intelligent clear-cut writing in the novel helped strengthen his voice even more....PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT has everything you need for the perfect coming of age story...."

The novel deals with multiple heavy issues which need to be discussed more often, the first of these being child abuse and suicide. In the novel, one of Danny’s friends committed suicide in the past year, and even after a year later it is still affecting his community. Danny shows us how the suicide broke everyone who ever knew Sandra (the girl who committed suicide) and how people are afraid to discuss the matter due to the fear that someone else will attempt suicide. This is especially apparent at Danny’s high school, where it was forbidden to talk about the entire matter. In fact, it gets to the point where Danny and his friends go against the school and publish an article about it on the school paper. This is an important scene because it really raises the question of how we as people should address these types of situations when they occur.

Not only that, but PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT offers a discussion on racism and immigration that was extremely well handled. Danny has a lot to say on this certain subject matter; there are multiple moments where he feels trapped due to his race and how it affects his life (while I would love to be more specific about this part, it would spoil the book). Just about most of the cast in this novel are Asian American, and almost all of them are well fleshed out and complex.

There was also an extremely small subplot that had to do with Danny’s romantic feelings towards his best friend, Harry. While usually I don’t like romances in books, I was okay with this one because it didn’t feel forced and didn’t get in the way of the story. Seeing an unexpected male-male romance that wasn’t overdone was something I enjoyed, so I thought I would mention that.

As you can see, there’s a lot to love about PICTURE US THE LIGHT. There is, however, one big issue that I had with the novel that ruined part of my enjoyment: the pacing. Now I know this isn’t a huge issue for most people, which is why I would still recommend this book to those who interested in it, but I do not enjoy books that have extremely slow pacing. This is around a 360-page book, and it doesn’t really pick up the pace until we get around 125 or so pages into it. The first half was so excruciatingly slow that it took me forever to trudge through the first half. While it did make up for it in the end with an amazing second half, I couldn’t help but feel annoyed at the fact that it was so slow.

Once again, while I didn’t love PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT as much as I was hoping to, I would still suggest those who are interested in reading it to pick it up because I’m positive they will enjoy it more than I did. PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT has everything you need for the perfect coming of age story: thoughtful social commentary on how people of different races are viewed today, discussion on suicide and how one moves on after a tragic event like that happens, along with honest and raw writing.

Reviewed by Marco M., Teen Board Member on April 26, 2018

Picture Us in the Light
by Kelly Loy Gilbert