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: A Line in the Dark, Malinda Lo (Oct. 17, 2017)

I’m torn. A Line in the Dark on the surface is my bread and butter: a psychological thriller with diverse characters, an unreliable narrator, and a love triangle. Plus, look at that cover! It opens with a bang (literally) but I was left feeling…unsatisfied at the end? I have some somewhat incoherent thoughts:

Jess Wong has had a long-standing crush on her best friend, Angie. And everything was peachy while it was just the two of them, but then Angie meets Margot, a student at the ritzy private school, and Jess’ world begins to unravel. Jess finds it difficult to share Angie with Margot, as well as keep a cap on her feelings—which she has long denied. At a party one night, Jess has an altercation with Margot’s best friend, Ryan, and after Ryan subsequently goes missing, Jess shoots to the top of the suspect list.

Ok, so. This is definitely personal preference, but I like my thrillers to be a tad more sinister and um…twisted…than A Line in the Dark. In the end, it just felt kind of watered down compared to some of the other thrillers I’ve read this year and really enjoyed. (i.e. This Darkness Mine and Final Girls).  If you enjoy a good mystery but not a graphic one, A Line in the Dark might be a good choice for you. There’s also a really cool art-imitating-life aspect with Jess’ comic book that reminded me of Eliza and her Monsters.

I am notoriously bad at guessing the twist endings, so my interest was definitely piqued the entire way through…but the ending was rushed. Within the context of the plot, the ending makes sense, I just needed another 5 pages or so of resolution.

I’m stuck between 3 – 3.5 / 5. The ending just kind of brought it down for me.

Thank you Dutton Books for Young Readers for my ARC. A Line in the Dark is available now.

REVIEW: Starfish, Akemi Dawn Bowman (Sept. 26, 2017)

Starfish | Akemi Dawn BowmanI read this in two hours on a Saturday morning. I started crying within the first few chapters and I Did. Not. Stop. As a Korean-American adoptee who has dealt with social anxiety and low self-esteem my entire life, I honestly I don’t know if I can accurately describe how much Starfish meant to me, but I’m going to do my best.

THE 411: Kiko has always had a hard time with her identity due to the fact that she is half-Japanese—she doesn’t feel completely accepted by white society, yet doesn’t feel ready to embrace her Japanese heritage. Her parents are divorced, leaving her and two brothers with their narcissistic mother. Her only reprieve is her art, and her dream of attending the Prism art school in New York City. After her dreams are dashed, she’s left to pick up the pieces, as well as deal with the reappearance of her childhood best friend, Jamie.

I don’t know if I’ve ever connected more with a written character than Kiko Himura. I grew up in mostly white Iowa and was almost always the odd duck out. This, in addition to my natural inclination to be self-deprecating, has led to me feeling inferior and ugly for being Asian. And I’ve felt this way my entire life. Reading Kiko’s thoughts about herself, her eyes, her skin tone, was like taking a look at my diary.

Her relationship with Jamie made my poor little heart so happy. As kids, we don’t see colors. Kids are just kids. Friends are just friends. And Jamie leaving when she started realizing that she looked different just reinforced Kiko’s belief that there is something wrong with her Asian features. My love life is practically nonexistent, partly because it’s never been a priority for me, but also because one of my deepest fears is being rejected for being Asian. There’s a scene involving Kiko at a party that is pretty much my worst nightmare personified. At the end of “Starfish,” Kiko isn’t magically cured of her anxiety or 100 percent accepting of herself, but she’s on the right path. And that gave/gives me hope.

It was also amazing to see the depiction of a narcissistic parent in a novel. I wish 10-year-old Kate had had this book.

And Akemi Dawn Bowman, you’ve found a fan for life. I can’t wait for your forthcoming novel.  I was truly touched—I cannot stop singing its praises.

MY RATING: ✰✰✰✰✰ (and one of my favorite reads from 2017 so far)
RECOMMENDED FOR: everyone with a heart aka everyone

Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster for my galley. Starfish is available now.