I just think it’s so important that we – that we be brave in the stories we want to write. And that we remember we have this platform and this influence, and if we aren’t using it to tell people what matters, even if it’s risky, then what’s the point?
My synopsis: In Cupertino, the students are surrounded by high expectations from parents, teachers, and peers. There’s a building pressure from college applications and plans for the future. In their world, there is no average, there is no middle ground, there is no plan B. Danny, unlike most of his peers, doesn’t come from a wealthy background. He just got into his first choice for art school, RISD, but he’s already feeling the pressure of not living up to everyone’s expectations and he has been staring at blank pages for a while – what if he just isn’t good enough?
Published April 10, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion
Review copy provided by publisher through BookishFirst, in exchange for an honest review
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: art, portraits, LGBT, freedom of speech, suicide, friendships, immigration, parents, biological ties, decisions, college-bound, pressure from high expectations, life, hope, childhood friendships, adoption, Asian culture, Bay area, wealth, upper class, secrets
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I’ve never read the author’s previous work but after this, she’s definitely under my radar. Poetic and artful in its exploration of difficult and dark issues, Picture Us in the Light is so honest and raw and beautiful. I felt like I spent as much time taking note of the numerous quotes as I did reading it – Kelly Loy Gilbert’s prose is an art itself.
The world owes us nothing, maybe; you could look at it that way. Or you could look at the world like you love it and you expect something from it because of that, because that’s the only reason you can ever expect anything from anyone.
Even though it had some funny and amusing moments, this is definitely not a fluffy read. The plot isn’t exactly linear – there is a bit of a mysterious element in the plot, but contrary to my initial impression, it isn’t the point nor the major focus of the novel. It’s almost written like a memoir – Danny’s first-person narrative weaves memories and philosophical musings into his daily life. It’s weird because I really wouldn’t be able to tell you one climactic moment: I think every reader will choose a different significant point in the story.
Not everyone gets this: someone who’ll drop everything for you, no questions asked. I know how lucky I am.
I suppose the character I enjoyed most is Harry, Danny’s best friend. I loved his relationship with Danny, but also with everyone else – he’s so dependable and he’s such a true friend. He’s the guy who’s liked by everyone, everyone at ease around him. He’s the guy you’d love to hate (just so someone hates him) but can’t help but love, anyway. He actually reminded me of Gideon from Foolish Hearts. He’s always there for Danny – he’s a stickler for rules, but when Danny needed him to skip class so they could drive somewhere eight hours away – he’s there, no questions asked. He’s the friend that everyone wished they could have.
Another promising character that I wish had been explored more was Regina. For a while, I thought there would be more, but that’s the thing with first-person POV’s – the development of other characters are just so limited. It’s really hard to do that, and only a few authors achieve it in a satisfactory way.
Overall, I really did like the novel, less so because of the plot or the characters, more so because of the author’s particular approach in discussing the themes.
If you’re looking for a lighthearted read, this one might not be for you, just yet. I’d recommend it to fans of John Green (because I am!) – it has the same qualities we love about John Green’s writing: philosophical musings, an almost melancholy tone, honest and relatable characters.
I also think this one’s a great read for someone who’s college-bound, and is at the point in their life that almost seems overwhelming – all the crazy decisions you have to make, all the expectations, the beginning of something new. It can be such a scary, difficult time. And I think this book gives voice to that.
Thank you for reading! I hope that no matter where you are, you don’t feel so alone anymore. And seriously, if you need anyone to talk to, if you just need a listening ear, I’m here.
Are you planning to read Picture Us in the Light?
What are some of your favorite reads with art as a theme?