REVIEW: Picture Us in the Light, Kelly Loy Gilbert (April 10, 2018)

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 senior and talented artist, who has already been accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). But ever since his acceptance, he’s felt uninspired and unable

Danny’s parents are immigrants from China. He also has an older sister who died prematurely. Even though he barely knew her, Danny has always felt an emptiness in his life where she should be. One day Danny unearths a box hidden away in the closet, full of files detailing the whereabouts of a powerful Silicon Valley family, and his parents refuse to explain.

As Danny begins to put the pieces together, he starts reflecting on things from his past that just didn’t add up. Like the time his parents moved them from Texas to California overnight with no warning. Along for the ride is Danny’s best friend, Harry, for whom he harbors a deep, hidden attraction.

First off, 90 percent of the cast of characters are of Asian descent. *insert squee here* Any typical stereotypes of Asians, i.e. Asian parents all want their kids to be doctors, are addressed head on. (And Danny’s parents are more than supportive of his future in art).

If you like getting your heart ripped out by love stories (or just in general), you’re in for a reeeeal treat. Danny’s feelings for Harry definitely aren’t the focus point of this book, but play a large role. Danny’s sexuality is also never specifically labeled, which I love. The word “gay” is never used. Danny is just Danny. And he loves Harry. (#HANNY <—  Yes, I just did that).

With all the current political conversations regarding immigrants to the US, this book feels extremely timely.  For a book that tackles many hard-hitting topics, Gilbert does it with grace. Her writing is lyrical and eloquent and her first novel, CONVICTION, skyrocketed to the top of my TBR.

Now, unfortunately, the “swerve” of this novel that touched me to my core is a spoiler and I won’t mention it more here. But just know my origin story begins the same way and it’s a storyline I’ve read very little about in YA. Once I surmised that the story was going in this direction, I actually had to hold in my gasp because it’s perfect. (Once you read, message me on Goodreads and LET’S TALK).

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰✰ (one of my fave books of 2018 so far)
RECOMMENDED FOR: anyone with a heart and/or soul. So everyone.

Thank you Disney Hyperion for my galley! Picture Us in the Light is available April 10.


REVIEW: Ace of Shades, Amanda Foody (April 10, 2018)

Last year, I read Amanda Foody’s debut, DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, and it was fabulous. Carnival/circus/traveling show-type books seem to be a popular setting in YA books nowadays and I found DOTBC incredibly fresh and original.

So, obviously, I’ve been coveting Foody’s sophomore novel (and first in a new series!), ACE OF SHADES. I was very fortunate to receive a surprise ARC *throws confetti at Harlequin TEEN* and I really, REALLY enjoyed this.

The 411: Enne Salta is a member of the elite dancing family (The Saltas)–who enters New Reynes aka The City of Sin after her mother, Lourdes, goes missing. New Reynes is riddled with crime and populated by three rival gangs, the Irons, the Scarhands, and the Doves, as well as two main mafia fams, the Augustines and the Torrens. And as you can probably surmise, there isn’t a lot of agreement between all of these different parties.

Acting upon a tip from Lourdes, Enne searches out Iron Lord, Levi Glaisyer, who she is told can help her reunite with Lourdes. Levi, however, enormously in debt, gets caught up in an executive-style game with the infamous Phoenix Club. Time is running out for both Enne and Levi, and they must work together to get what they want.

As I mentioned above, I had so much fun with this. Amandy Foody is excellent at world building. Both the descriptions of the Gomorrah Festival in DOTBC and New Reynes in ACE OF SHADES are incredibly atmospheric and well-written. You feel the grittiness of New Reynes in your bones. Because this world is so dense, I recommend creating a character map. I’ve been doing this for a while and it definitely helps keep track of characters, their relationships to each other and how they relate to the world as a whole. These are also great to refresh your memory before starting a sequel.

Ok, so from a diversity standpoint: lots of win here. Levi is African-American and very open about his bisexuality. We can also surmise that Lourdes is genderfluid, or does not identify as any gender. And there is tons more diversity in the side-characters. The best part? Foody doesn’t call excessive attention to these labels. These characters simply are who they are, unapologetically, and it’s wonderful to see.

I’ve also seen some dissenting opinions about Enne, but I personally really liked her. She goes through a bit of an identity crisis after learning some hard truths about her family history, and although she starts out as a strong woman from the get-go, continues to grow even more as the story progresses.

Jac is also a delight. I heart him very much.

There’s also the promise of a romance and lots of pining (which I actually LOVE), but the love story is definitely not the primary focus of this book. It’s very much an adventure, caper-type book. And, um, that ending. Rude, Ms. Foody, just rude. I’m going to need Book 2 ASAP.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰
MAY I ALSO SUGGEST: anything by Leigh Bardugo and Marie Lu

Thank you Harlequin TEEN for my galley! Ace of Shades is available April 10.

[I’m also 95 percent positive this book is April’s OwlCrate pick as well. I can’t wait to see how they do this box.]