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.
MAY I ALSO SUGGEST: STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman


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

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REVIEW: The Astonishing Color of After, Emily X.R. Pan (March 20, 2018)

Today I am coming to you with another five-star read for me. I knew going in that THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER was going to be up my alley–but holy emotions, Batman, I didn’t expect to be a stuttering pool of salt water. But what’s new?

And also looooook at that B-E-A-U-tiful cover.


The 411: After Leigh’s mother dies by suicide, she is visited by a large, strange bird at night. Afterwards she comes to the impossible but amazing realization: her mother isn’t dead. She’s been reincarnated into a bird.

Leigh makes the trip to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents, with whom her parents had a falling out with due to their interracial marriage. Leigh sorts through her family history, all the while experiencing recurring visits from the bird she’s convinced is her mother.


Oh boy. Ohhhhhhh boy. This book is so beautiful.

Leigh’s mother’s depression feels achingly real–and speaking as someone who was diagnosed with depression at age 14, I connected with her so much.  Her depression and her death are not romanticized, compared as to say, 13 REASONS WHY.

I’ve only recently gotten back into reading fantasy, and I haven’t had a lot of experience with magical realism–but if all magical realism books are like this, I may have found a new favorite genre.

It makes me so intensely happy to see how much representation there is in YA lit nowadays. And if it means so much to me now at 27, I can’t even imagine how much it would have meant to 10-year-old Kate. Reading a cast of characters 90 percent Asian or of Asian-descent is still amazing to me.

And the romance is friends-to-lovers. My absolute favorite thing in the entire world. *throws all the heart-shaped confetti at Emily X.R. Pan*

NOTE: I’ve had several conversations with people who are interested in this book but are wary of the YA label. I have a lot to say in regards to this snap judgment as a whole, but for now just know:

A) Yes, the character is a teen but very mature
B) No Insta-love or love triangles if that’s not your jam
C) YA is awesome no matter your age. So just do yourself a favor and pick up the book.

** Trigger warnings for depression, suicide ideation, and suicide.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰✰
RECOMMENDED FOR: lovers of magical realism, family intrigue, and beautiful writing
MAY I ALSO SUGGEST: anything by Anna Marie McLemore and BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE by Ruth Emmie Lang


Thank you LBYR for my galley! The Astonishing Color of After is available March 20–and is also a Book of the Month pick for March.