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Book Review: "Picture us in the light"

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

By Antara Gangwal October 13, 2022

Vibrant and heartbreaking, Kelly Loy Gilbert’s “Picture Us In The Light” is a moving love letter to friendships, family and the inherent struggle of being human.

The novel follows Danny Cheng, a Chinese-American high school senior who has his parents’ support to pursue his passion of art. After he is accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Danny thinks his future is set. However, his sheltered worldview crumbles when secrets about his past are slowly unraveled. Beginning when Danny finds a box filled with a mysterious collection of paraphernalia about another family he has never met, a series of discoveries leads Danny to a shocking revelation about his own family, changing his future forever.

The author’s writing style is gorgeous—not overly saccharine, but in a way that quietly demands attention. Gilbert conveys emotions with detail, constructing Danny’s perspective of the world through his artistic musings along with symbolic flashbacks. His perspective is realistically crafted: his thoughts and emotions are palpable across the pages.

Furthermore, this novel explores themes that transcend into a cohesive whole; it is not just about the everlasting bond of family and friendships, the pressure filled academic culture or social issues. Instead, it is about their intersection and their convergence in every moment of Danny’s life.

“Picture Us In The Light” explores how teens face these concepts, and the young characters are depicted as unflinchingly human. Danny makes numerous mistakes that have grave consequences, but the reader roots for him throughout the novel as they understand that he is simply human.

A downside was the ambiguous ending, leaving the reader desiring closure. Nonetheless, the ending reflects the abrupt irregularity of real life, strengthening the novel’s sense of reality and allowing readers to dwell on Danny’s story for a little longer. I still find myself often thinking about the poignantly constructed narrative.

“Picture Us In The Light” is ultimately a transformative novel, a necessary read for teen readers who will be able to connect to its exploration of the struggles of being a young person in today’s world.


About the Contributors

Antara Gangwal

Staff writer

Antara Gangwal is a sophomore at Leland High School and is a staff writer for The Charger Account. Her hobbies include reading, watching films and listening to music.

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