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Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne

Absolute Brightness

by James Lecesne

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Phoebe lives with her mom and older sister, and they are all shocked to hear that their cousin from Arizona, Leonard, is coming to live with them. They have no idea how to live with a boy, and when Leonard gets there, they all think he's really weird. He's flamboyant, jovial, and Phoebe thinks he has all the telltale signs of being gay. Leonard doens't identify as anything, yet--he thinks he's just being himself.

Tragedy strikes when Leonard goes missing and suddenly the whole town of Neptune, New Jersey is turned upside down by trying to uncover what happened to Leonard Pelkey. Phoebe undergoes her coming of age in learning to deal with Leonard's disappearance and grappling between the difference of good and evil. ( )
  RussianLoveMachine | Apr 17, 2014 |
Characters are realistic. Dialog is natural. Well done. ( )
  madamepince | Mar 25, 2013 |
Absolute Brightness is one of the best gay themed books I have read so far. The story is narrated by a teenage girl, who is horrified to learn that her very flamboyant cousin, Leonard, is coming to live with them. She is embarrassed by his flamboyant behavior and dress. Although Leonard gets teased and taunted at school, the adults in the book accept him, and he quickly becomes the town favorite at the hair salon. Just when the narrator starts to like her cousin Leonard, he goes missing. The town pulls together with the local police department to try to figure out what has happened to Leonard.

This novel is funny, realistic, and heart wrenching. Lecesne does an excellent job of making Leonard one of the most loved characters of all the books I’ve read this year. The book mimics life when it takes a turn from heartwarming to devastating in the blink of an eye, just like life often does. This novel is a must for any high school library. ( )
  lellis04 | Apr 17, 2011 |
Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

Leonard Pelkey doesn't fit in anywhere. His mother has died, leaving him with Phoebe's uncle, now his legal guardian. But Uncle Mike has plans to go to Mexico to invest in cattle. So Phoebe's mom, Ellen, arranges for Leonard to come and live with them in Neptune, New Jersey. But Neptune isn't ready for Leonard. Saying Leonard is a bit outrageous is being optimistic. Phoebe and her sister, Deirdre, treat Leonard as an unwelcome house guest, going so far as creating a living space for Leonard in the basement surrounded by filled cardboard boxes.

But this doesn't stop Leonard from going full-steam-ahead with his life in Neptune. He infuses himself into Ellen's beauty shop business, and slowly, the old ladies that frequent the shop start to subtly change under his tutelage. Phoebe's mom finally starts taking an interest in her appearance again. He even gets Deirdre to drastically change her style.

But Phoebe feels left out. Leonard is showing an interest in making over everyone but her. Why does he not bother offering her tips? Then again, Phoebe has done nothing but give him a hard time ever since he moved in.

But one night, everything changes. One day he doesn't return from Drama Camp. With the help of Detective Chuck, Phoebe and her family begin a long journey to find out what happened to Leonard. During the days of the investigation, Phoebe begins to acknowledge to herself that she misses Leonard and regrets all that happened between then.

As the story reaches its climax with the revelation of Leonard's disappearance, the main characters reveal secret that have been festering within Phoebe's family for years.

Mr. Lecesne writes a harrowing story of how a community can react to someone who comes off as different. Leonard infuses joy in all he does, and only too late does Phoebe realize the effort that Leonard put into showing the world such a positive face. The story is heavy, but very moving. I did feel that there were a couple of plot lines that were put in that were left dangling. But none of them were vital to the outcome of the story.

Mr. Lecesne leaves the reader guessing as to Leonard's sexual preference throughout the entire book. But the reader doesn't have to know one way or the other, because there is more to the story than the issue of sexual orientation. ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS brings to mind the story of WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER by Carol Plum-Ucci. But Mr. Lecesne brings his story to a definite conclusion, unlike Ms. Plum-Ucci's story, which leaves the reader guessing at the end. ( )
1 vote GeniusJen | Oct 9, 2009 |
It is so absolutely, unbelievably heart-wrenching. I fell in love with this book from the start. I was torn apart when I found out what had happened to the boy. I cried so hard and wished it not to be true. I wasn’t disappointed, but I was heart-broken to a certain degree. I don’t think it’s possible to dislike this one. I adore this book. It’s the best I’ve read in a long time. I loved that the boy wasn’t afraid to be himself and how he brought life to the town. I hate to say this, but, because of the emotions of this book and the fact that the narrator is a girl, boys may not especially like this one, but I urge them to try it nonetheless. They might be surprised. AHS/EK
  edspicer | Sep 21, 2009 |
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I was stalled in aisle 7 of our local supermarket, musing over the selection of potato chips and saying something like, "But really, don't you think thirty-seven different types of chips is a ridiculous number to choose from? I mean, how did we end up living in a country that makes a big deal over everything squeaky-clean and then at the same time makes you pay extra for chips called 'dirty'?"
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061256277, Hardcover)

Darkness: Where light is not.

Light: Brightness or illumination from a particular source.

Absolute brightness: The mystery of Leonard Pelkey.

This is the story of a luminous force of nature: a boy who encounters evil and whose magic isn't truly felt until he disappears.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:49 -0400)

In the beach town of Neptune, New Jersey, Phoebe's life is changed irrevocably when her gay cousin moves into her house and soon goes missing.

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