Summary and book reviews of Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Picture Us In The Light

by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert X
Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 12, 2019, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

PROLOGUE

Years ago before there was me, while all that cosmic dust that would become my cells was still spinning and cycling through the eons of the universe, there was the image of a life. A better one, I guess, according to whatever calculations my parents were going by then, and so they let go of the world I would've been born into, the only world they knew; they held to the promise of that new life and crossed an ocean and tied our destinies to everyone we'd find on the other shores.

The three of us live in Cupertino now, in the Bay Area—six thousand miles from Shiyan, China, where my parents are from. From what I've looked up, it's pretty there: craggy green mountains rising into the sky, the city cradled between the peaks. You can take a gondola up the mountain. When my parents were growing up, there wasn't too much to do there except work in the auto factories, and they both went to Wuhan University, five hours away, and met when they were just ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon Kelly Loy Gilbert explored during her research process for Picture Us in the Light as well as its potential human implications. Why do you think it was important for this story to open with a chapter on Danny's father's experiments on quantum entanglement? What other moments in the story did you notice quantum entanglement at work?
  2. Kelly connects Danny's story with Rosa Maria Hernandez's experience of ripped from her family while being rushed to the hospital. What news stories have made you curious or interested in learning more about the people behind them?
  3. In many YA books, parents are barriers to the youth and their story and therefore end up off-screen. In Picture Us in ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The real strength of Picture Us In the Light is how deftly Gilbert demonstrates that to have a powerful narrative a book doesn't have to fit neat categories because, after all, whose life does? She gives us the complexity of life itself: bad things happen, friendships change, we learn things about our parents we could have never imagined, lives fall apart and come together again. And in between all the interwoven good and bad, love and loss, joy and despair, science and art, we realize ourselves and our place in it all. So, this is a book about family and sacrifices and secrets, but also about love, and hope, and the need to believe that someday, we find the people we need most again.   (Reviewed by Michelle Anya Anjirbag).

Full Review Members Only (634 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Gilbert masterfully negotiat[es] plot twists and revelations while keeping the focus on her characters.

Booklist
Starred Review. With grace and respect, Gilbert manages to address the existential quandaries of both second-generation American teens and their immigrant parents Gilbert methodically lays bare her characters' secrets as if she was slowly pulling a cloth off a fine painting.

School Library Journal
Starred Review. The author demonstrates exquisite facility with tech-savvy teen-speak in every scenario and balances the authentic dialogue with elegant prose. An excellent choice for YA collections. Grade 9 and up.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Exquisite, heartbreaking, unforgettable - and, ultimately, uplifting.

Author Blurb Becky Albertalli, author of Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Picture me madly in love with this moving, tender, unapologetically honest book.

Author Blurb Melissa de la Cruz, #1 New York Times best-selling author
This urgent, achingly beautiful story shines a light on those living in the shadows. A beacon of hope and resistance.

Author Blurb Anna-Marie McLemore, author of Stonewall Honor Book When the Moon Was Ours and Wild Beauty
Heartbreaking and transcendent. Gilbert is a true artist of character, both obscuring and illuminating with each brilliant turn of phrase. In Danny, she gives us a narrator who, in so deeply and completely revealing his own inner life, shows us each other and ourselves.

Author Blurb Jeff Zentner, William C. Morris Award winning author of The Serpent King and Goodbye Days
Few books have ever moved me like this masterful story that pulses with love, loss, quiet hurts, and soaring dreams. An instant classic.

Author Blurb David Arnold, New York Timesbest-selling author of Mosquitoland
A novel as radiant as its title suggests. Picture Us in the Light is fierce proof that Kelly Loy Gilbert is one of the best writers around.

Reader Reviews

Gretchen

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 ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Narratives that Explore the Immigrant Experience

Picture Us In the Light adds to readers' consciousness of the immigrant experience – and the experience of children of immigrants in the United States. But it is not the only novel that does this. Children's and young adult texts in particular are consciously addressing these issues from wider and wider lenses, providing unique experiences, increased representations of diversity, and speaking to wider demographics. In doing this, they are widening the conversation and perception of "immigration issues." This list curates young adult books that exemplify this. Check out some of these other suggestions:

A Land of Permanent GoodbyesA Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi
Abawi's gripping story of a Syrian teen trying to keep what's left of his ...

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