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Picture Us In The Light

by Kelly Loy Gilbert

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2131792,862 (4.21)7
"Picture me madly in love with this moving, tender, unapologetically honest book." -Becky Albertalli, #1 best-selling author of Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Winner of the California Book Award and Stonewall Honor! 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 Bay Area 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's 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 façade 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.… (more)

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» See also 7 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Danny's dreams are finally coming true. After growing up in Cupertino he has just been accepted to RISD (early admission) but things start to fall apart - His dad looses his job & cant find another, his mom is really stressing out, his best friends are getting anxious as they come up to the one year anniversary of a suicide in their group & everyone seems to be keeping secrets. Including Danny. But the biggest skeleton in the closet (literally) is a box of letters and drawings about a sister who he's never heard of before.

Now Danny doesn't know if he knows anyone anymore - his parents, his best friends or himself & he's fighting to keep the life that he's known ( )
  Rachael_SJSU | Jul 11, 2020 |
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 Bay Area 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's 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 façade 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.
  Gmomaj | Jul 11, 2020 |
I listened to Picture Us in the Light from Audiobooksync's release. Otherwise, I probably never would have come across it. They paired it with Secret Soldiers: How the US Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis by Janeczko. These are both about secrets.

Picture Us in the Light seems like a story about one kid and his friends. Realistic fiction. Been there, done that. It slowly reveals more and more. On its basic level, Danny possesses great talent as an artist. His parents have a green card to work in the United States. His father works at the University and, as far as I can tell, a brilliant scientist. His mother takes care of some kids and has cleaned houses. They struggle with money and they struggle with living in the United States in certain ways. They want Danny to have an American future, but they are not "Americanized" and are of a different generation, so their relationships don't quite fit to make the perfect family puzzle picture. Danny often has little patience with his parents. When he finds a box and innocently asks about the contents, Danny discovers that there appear to be secrets that his parents failed to tell him. He begins a tepid investigation.

Danny's story mainly revolves around his best friend, Harry. Harry's father, a politician, expects great things from Harry or at least, it's implied by Harry. Harry cannot truly understand Danny's poorness, but he also doesn't care. He would give him anything. Harry is the person whom everyone likes. He runs for students council and always wins. He charm disarms parents, friends, & students. Harry dates Regina, another person in their group of friends. Danny wonders if they love each other, for he has feelings for Harry. Most of the novel is from Danny's point of view, so we only see the situations from his vantage point. He stays silent because he's also friends with Regina and has his own secrets. There's also an anniversary coming up that changed their lives. As members of the newspaper, they are working on an issue memorializing the event.

I want to tell Danny to do the opposite of whatever he thinks he should do. He makes a decision and it's almost always the wrong decision. Often he doesn't know all of the facts. He so often says the wrong thing to his parents and doesn't say something to his friends that they need to hear. His parents are perhaps the most interesting of the characters. They are so excited that Danny receives early acceptance into the most prestigious art school in the United States: Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). His father, however, loses his job and the budget gets very tight. They shield Danny from anything that seems negative. They don't tell him why his father lost his job. They also don't tell him about the meaning of the box's contents until there is no longer a choice. They like Harry and know that Danny has a lifelong friend with him. The secrets of what happened a year ago at school and his parents (and his own) pasts, slowly unravel and Danny has to stop being selfish and see beyond himself.

What takes this beyond just another realistic fiction novel about a kid. The secrets. I didn't know what to think as I was listening to the novel. As more and more was slowly revealed, I was pulled more into the story and loved the ending. I loved where Danny ended up as a person and how realistically lives changed and were shaped because of secrets. What would be different if everyone knew everything. I feel that his parents' story is one of tragedy. They sacrificed with the best of intentions yet were always victims. It's a novel about culture. It's a novel about friendship. It's a novel about self. It's a novel about how to treat others and the consequences of those secret choices. It's a novel about life. There is another first person voice that slowly reveals who it is, allowing the reader to see life from another point of view whose voice is important, adding to these same ideas. Family, choices, sacrifice--what are the consequences of our attempts at each of these? There's a sense of such loneliness in this story, yet a possibility of hope ends the novel. I liked it a lot. ( )
1 vote acargile | May 26, 2020 |
If I could give more than 5 stars I would. This book is haunting.

It is complex and real and refreshing and difficult and emotional and cute and tragic. I found Danny to be one of the most relatable teenage characters I've ever read; I could feel his thoughts and emotions and doubts in my body because the way the author wrote them made them so real and so similar to what I experienced. This book has a mystery that excellently drives the plot forward, mixing a young queer Asian boy's coming of age with a family secret, a budding sexuality, a navigation of race and class in high school, and difficult, fluid friendships with stressed out teenagers also trying to figure out their shit.

I HIGHLY recommend this book. It is phenomenal: the plot, the characters, the writing, everything. 6 out of 5 stars. ( )
1 vote iambriam | May 16, 2020 |
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 Bay Area 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's 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 façade 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.
  Gmomaj | May 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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"Picture me madly in love with this moving, tender, unapologetically honest book." -Becky Albertalli, #1 best-selling author of Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Winner of the California Book Award and Stonewall Honor! 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 Bay Area 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's 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 façade 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.

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