A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kelly Loy Gilbert's Picture Us in the Light is the story of high school senior Danny Cheng, who lives with his Chinese immigrant parents in a San Francisco Bay Area town filled with "the overachieving kids of tech titans." While not from a wealthy family, Danny is an overachiever, having won early admission and a full scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design. But this great news is overshadowed by Danny's dread of being separated from his best friend, Harry Wong, and his discovery of a box of papers that will begin the unraveling of closely guarded family secrets. A character commits suicide and there is some strong language ("s--t," "crap," "bitch," "f--k," and "a--hole"). The novel tackles tough issues -- sexual identity, suicide, and the pressure of high expectations -- that should make for serious discussions between teens and parents.
What's the story?
As PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT begins, Danny Cheng has what seems to be an enviable life. He's been admitted to Rhode Island School of Design on a full scholarship, fulfilling his and his parents' dreams that he'll become an artist. At school, he has a close circle of friends, including his best friend, Harry Wong, and Harry’s girlfriend, Regina Chan. But Danny's excitement at being accepted at RISD is tempered by the dread and panic he feels at the thought of being separated from Harry. The story unfolds in flashbacks -- Danny's parents' life in China, the family's years in Texas and their move to California, how Danny met Harry and Regina, and the shocking suicide of one of the teens' friends. When Danny discovers a box of papers hidden in a closet, he begins to wonder if his parents have been truthful about the death of the older sister he never knew. But that's not the only secret his parents are keeping from Danny. When his father loses his job and the family is forced to move to another town, he learns that his parents have an even darker secret that will affect both their future and Danny's.
Is it any good?
There's a lot going on in this novel with multiple storylines, shocking secrets, and flashbacks, but it's all grounded by the relatable and likable character of Danny Cheng. Most readers of Picture Us in the Light will probably catch on early to the truth about Danny's feelings for Harry and what really happened to his sister, but the second secret his parents have kept hidden is genuinely surprising.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the pressure to succeed felt by characters in Picture Us in the Light. How do students at your school cope with stress about grades and getting into the right college?
Danny gives up a lot to help his parents. Do you think he made the right choice?
Has anyone at your school ever died in an accident or committed suicide? How did the students and administration handle it?
- Author: Kelly Loy Gilbert
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
- Publication date: April 10, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 386
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
For kids who love coming-of-age stories
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.