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Picture Us in the Light

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  3,054 ratings  ·  800 reviews
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 an
Hardcover, 361 pages
Published April 10th 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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West Min Absolutely. It's not all centered on the romance aspect of the book- which, is gay- and I think that's really important. It doesn't make the character…moreAbsolutely. It's not all centered on the romance aspect of the book- which, is gay- and I think that's really important. It doesn't make the character's feelings for someone of the same gender anything abnormal or strange. It treats romance the same way books do when they're about straight people.
For me, it's incredibly important to see something so natural. Not another coming out story, though those are good. The book doesn't dedicate a large portion to Daniel's feelings about his own sexuality, or whatever. That's not his personal journey at this point. At this point, it's not a big deal, so Danny never uses the word "gay" to describe himself. There aren't the gay jokes or the awkward scenarios. This isn't about being gay. It's about Danny being himself.
That's not to say that they bury the romance in this. The relationship is a big part of the book, and it definitely isn't hidden. One of my favorite things about this book is how beautifully Danny's feelings are described. They're powerful but hidden, and his perspective of the person he loves is skewed by his bias, of course, but it's also transparent and honest. It's deep and so viscerally real that you can feel how Danny feels in your chest.
So, for me, I would recommend this 100% to LGBTQ+ people. It's the most validating book I've read, and I read a lot of LGBTQ+ themed books. (less)

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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  3,054 ratings  ·  800 reviews

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Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
every once in a while, you come across a book where it feels as if your hands are simply not strong enough to hold the immense weight of it on their own. and so your heart steps in, saying, ‘dont worry. i will carry the heaviness of this story. i will take on that burden.’

and with every beat, every pulse, you begin to feel that pressure. because its the kind of weight that stays with you for a long time, a particular kind of density that makes a home inside your chest.

i can feel how my heart n
This is the best young-adult book I have read since Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe , and I loved Picture Us in the Light even more than Ari and Dante. I cried for several minutes after reading the last page; I felt like my heart had been overrun by emotion in the best way. This is the book I wish I could give to my younger gay, Asian American self and the book I will promote with all of my heart until the day I die. Picture Us in the Light has everything I could ever ...more
Larry H
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm between 3.5 and 4 stars, rounded up because I'm a big softie.

Boy, there is a lot going on in this book! There was a period of time where I really wasn't sure what Kelly Loy Gilbert wanted the crux of the story to be, but in the end, this was a lovely, emotional book about the complexity of our relationships with family and friends, the destructive nature of secrets, and how self-acceptance can set your demons to rest.

Danny Cheng has dreamed of being an artist for as long as he can remember.
Elyse  Walters
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This beautifully written- sensitive - Young Adult novel - exploring very real confusing & painful themes - takes place right here in Silicon Valley- in the heart of the SF Bay Area.

Daniel, a high school student -talented artist was just accepted to his dream Art College on the other side of the country... so ready to bolt Cupertino- leave his SAT-studying-AP-4.8 GPA- Asian community. He’s one of these top students - Welcome to Cupertino!!!
...and the Chinese American- driven kids and their fami
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
It's hard not to lose your foothold when someone peers inside you, sees all those things you tried the hardest to keep hidden, all those ugly shames you've tried to tell yourself aren't really as bad as they seem. All those lies disintegrate in the light.

As I was reading this, I thought this was going to be the book that made up for every shitty book I've read so far for the past...days, weeks and, well, overall last month. The book gods had finally decided it was time for me to enjo
Good God, how does a person write like this. Reading Kelly Loy Gilbert is like willing settling into a cloud of increasingly darkening doom and yet I will happily do it every single time. Also, I don't know why no one told me this book was gay but it is totally gay. I was a little "ehhhh?" about the fact that it never uses the word, but I think it's because Danny's more narrowly focused on the fact of being in love with his best friend than the fact of being gay and he never quite sees past it? ...more
may ➹
say hello to my first 5-star of the year that I stayed up reading until 3am and cried multiple times over
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review

2 eyebrow raising stars

This is a real tough one because the content of the story tackles serious issues, such as, suicide, sexuality, and the pressure on young people to live up to their parent's expectations (especially when, like Danny, you are the only child of immigrants) something which I believe many people-young and old could certainly connect with but I felt it all very boring because something was missing in ma
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
He looks unruffled. Why did it feel like a lightning bolt to me, then?

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be this: disconnected. It’s well-written, with thoughtful characters, but it pulls you all over the place. At one point I thought it was exploring the grief of losing a friend, and then it was the grief of losing a family member, and then it was exploring the struggles of moving away from home and friends, dealing with fighting parents, struggling with trying to be creative
This book exceeded every expectation that I had for it.

To set the scene; I was at the bookstore about to buy a different book, when my friend picked up this one. She read the blurb and thought that it sounded interesting, and since our Queen Becky Albertalli endorsed it, she figured that I should give it a shot. I was hesitant, as I'd never heard of this book and wanted to read another one more. My friend persisted, and wore me down by saying "read it and tell me what you think, so then I can re
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT, like THUNDERHEAD, is a book I will shoving down everyone’s throats for the rest of the year my life. I was initially drawn in by the beautiful cover and then I was captivated from the first page and finished in my usual fashion: crying uncontrollably into my teddy bear and pillow.

So, #sorrynotsorry for name-dropping this book up the wazoo…because I will not rest until everyone has read this beautiful book and we can all gush together.

The 411: Danny Cheng is a high school
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I were to describe Picture Us in the Light in one word it might be “complex.” Or maybe “squishy.” “Beautiful.”


I have a bad (?) habit of not fully reading synopsis before picking up a book. Really, I don’t need to when it comes to Kelly and her books. Conviction is easily one of the books you’ll ever read so there was exactly zero chance I wouldn’t love this.

I sit here, a week after finishing, unable to read anything else. Danny’s story isn’t just the story of a child of immigrants, of
kav (xreadingsolacex)
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
actual rating: 4.5 stars

trigger warnings: suicide and depression

First of all, I just finished the novel, and I would just like to say: what the fuck???

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert is a moving young-adult contemporary about Danny Cheng, a Chinese-American teen growing up in the Bay Area, whose school life is rocked by a tragedy and whose family life is rocked by the reemergence of a mystery.

This book is just exquisite.

It does get off to a bit of a slow start, and that is m
The Candid Cover (Olivia & Lori)
Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert is a beautiful book that tackles many tough issues. There are multiple themes throughout the story that will open your eyes and rip your heart out at the same time. The writing is compelling and beautiful making this one of my favourite reads so far this year.

Full review on The Candid Cover
Maria (Big City Bookworm)

Actual rating: 3.5 stars rated down.


What I Liked

The mystery. Sure, the synopsis gives a hint at a bit of a mystery that is contained within this novel, however, I didn't think it would play such a huge part in this story. I think that this mystery was one of the main reasons I felt the need to continue reading, even when the story started to drag a little (which I'll talk more about a little later). I wanted to know the secrets that Danny's parents were keeping from him and I could not stop re
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
This is not going to appeal to every reader. I already know that for a fact. It’s the kind of story that reads slower than most of my usual fare, and it’s heavy - heavy in the sense that so many issues are raised in the story. But I ended up being unable to tear myself away from the story, and watching it unfold was excruciating but also compelling.
Skye Kilaen
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 0-genre-ya
Mini-review: Possibly one of the best YA books, or maybe even books period, that I have ever read. Heartbreaking in places, gorgeous emotion, heavy topics. Just amazing. If the blurb grabs you, absolutely give it a chance.
Rec-It Rachel
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert is out today!!! For fans of YA contemporary fiction this is absolutely a must-read. This is easily one of the best books I've read this year and one that I will happily be foisting upon everyone I know.

When it comes to contemporary fiction, I love both the super swoony romantic contemporaries and the gorgeously written, emotionally evocative ones. Picture Us in the Light certainly falls into the latter category. This book is so smart, heart-stinging,
CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨
Picture Us In The Light devastates slowly and I'm mad that this book is so underappreciated and under-read. Do yourself a favour and read this book.

- Follows Danny, a Chinese-American teen and son of immigrants, whose life is turned upside down when he discovers a mysterious box containing secrets that link his family to a buried past.
- From the sentence above, it makes it sound like a mystery or thriller - it isn't.
- It's a story about heartbreaking circumstances, the terrible choices we make
Vee_Bookish // stan shea couleé
Apr 10, 2018 marked it as want-to-read-new
I'm adding this to my Want to Read just to ask what's going on with the sort of Asian names? Harry Wong? Danny Cheng? Regina Chan? It sounds like someone at Disney didn't want names to be too Asian because WOAH THE WHITE PEOPLE WON'T LIKE THAT
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't think I've read a contemporary that's so gripping and Real and nuanced and devastating yet healing in a while

CW/TWs: depression, suicide, panic attacks, adoption, human trafficking
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

This book has taken all words away from me. I finished it sobbing and days later I don't think I can even do justice to the beauty of this book. After this book I needed the biggest of all hugs. Picture Us in the Light is wonderful. It has skyrocketed into my top contemporaries. It tackles hard topics: suicide, adoption, family, immigration, and more. But it handles each of them s
Vicky Again
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

this was a lot even though the story isn't necessarily dark, it's really heavy and so loaded and I just started CRYING when I finished

wow I just

CW: (view spoiler)
Elise (TheBookishActress)
so, uh, can someone drop the info as to whether or not this actually is lgbtq
Lilly (Lair Of Books)
Starting this one tonight for a blog tour I will be participating in on May 7th, I've heard such wonderful things about this book that's been flying under the radar. I LIVE for those stories about family, friendships, futures, and the complexities of love. Our POC main character is Gay and is struggling with telling his best friend he has feelings for him. I'm hoping Danny Cheng is my new fave MC...

The Blog tour has kicked off to a start over at Tales Of The Ravenous Reader head on over there fo
Isabelle | Nine Tale Vixen
This book epitomizes the power of "quiet" books: where the stakes are more (inter)personal than global or societal but still important. Although Danny's family situation is certainly not one that most readers will immediately relate to — his secret family history is pretty dark and complex; I don't consider myself an easily fazed reader, but I was definitely taken aback at each successive reveal — the coming-of-age themes are still universal, as are the contemplations of mental health, morality, ...more
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
4 1/2 stars - one of the best YA contemporaries I've read all year. This story is heartfelt and meaningful, with characters that practically leap off the pages. This should have so much more buzz surrounding it!
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow. I’m pretty sure I missed a lot because I read this so fast, but I just couldn’t stop. I’m so jealous of the writing; it’s absolutely amazing. Everything.... felt so important. Everything was so well written. I had such intense feelings about everyone, especially the parents. So much devastation and yet (I think) a very hopeful ending. Wow wow wow.
“The people who matter to you the most - you aren't always going to occupy the same space in their lives, I guess. Maybe that's what i always loved most about art, that it was a way of multiplying myself so I could feel like I was always a part of more than I really was... Maybe that still means something, however small. And maybe life is when you gather all the things you can hold on to and carry with you, and cross your fingers it will be enough."

“Other people don't exist just to be your ha
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Kelly Loy Gilbert is the author of CONVICTION and PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT (Disney-Hyperion, spring 2018). She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Articles featuring this book

Caroline Tung Richmond is an award-winning YA author and the program director of We Need Diverse Books. Run by authors, librarians, teac...
99 likes · 15 comments
“Other people don't exist just to be your happy ending, you know?” 20 likes
“It's hard not to lose your foothold when someone peers inside you, sees all those things you tried the hardest to keep hidden, all those ugly shames you've tried to tell yourself aren't really as bad as they seem. All those lies disintegrate in the light.” 10 likes
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