Book Review: Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert


Title – Picture Us in the Light

Author – Kelly Loy Gilbert 

Publisher – Disney-Hyperion

Published – April 10th, 2018

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 facade 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.

Divider 4.5


I’m going to tell you one thing, the blurb is a brief explanation of the story, it is what happens, but the story itself is the unravelling, the why, what, when, who, where and how. When the questions were answered for me, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of pain and loss. no matter how the story ends, it will forever be bittersweet.

This book is amazing because the majority of the characters are of Asian descent. Bonus points for me (I am fully behind supporting diverse books). We follow the life of high school senior Danny Cheng, the artist who has gotten into the college of his dream. Soon after he discovers a box filled with hidden family secrets, and asks his father about it, his dad immediately gets defensive, and from there little cracks in the life that his parents have built up with him in the centre, starts to show and makes him start questioning everything about his family because he knows there’s something his parents are keeping from him, because he realises that is his family secret is something so huge, he may never recover from it.

I don’t know if Danny Cheng is gay, because it is never mentioned, so maybe Danny doesn’t believe in labels, but we all know for sure that he has been secretly in love with his best friend Harry Wong for a long time now, who has a girlfriend Regina Chan, who is his closest friend after Harry.

The three of them, but mostly Harry follows Danny as he untangles the secrets and ultimately is the one that is there for him through everything because their friendship is even more beautiful.

I can’t do this book so much justice in this review, because spoilers, but it’s a book worth reading although, it’s a bit slow and you need to pay attention to the words because Kelly Loy Gilbert writing is poignant.

If you’re looking for a light and happy story about a high schooler on the verge of starting college this is it, but it’s also not it, because this story is so deep. This story is about a lot of things, it just touches on so many things pain, loss, life-shattering secrets, family, self-identity and discovery, immigrants, friendships, relationships, suicide, college etc.

Proceed to the book.


Lara Kareem


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