Review: Kelly Loy Gilbert – Picture Us In the Light

My sister chose Picture Us In the Light for me to read in January (see January TBR!). It was my first Pondathon read, and I’m very glad I finally got around to reading it.

Goodreads Synopsis

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined.

Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family’s blessing to pursue the career he’s always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny’s lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can’t stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan.

When Danny digs deeper into his parents’ past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed facade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.

CWs: child trafficking, past suicide, depression, car crash, panic attacks, racism, choking

Picture Us in the Light


I have to sit with this book for a little while. For two reasons: it was really good and really impactful, but it also tried to be a lot of different things at once. I have some mixed feelings because of that, although my feelings are mostly positive.

So let’s start with the good things. I’ve never read anything like this, and the topic is something that deserves to be acknowledged and discussed. This is exactly my kind of contemporary: slow and detailed, and the main character has a full, complete life. The writing style was incredible as well, I sticky tabbed the hell out of this book. So overall, I really did think this was a very special book.

But at the same time, this tried to be a lot all at once, and maybe, just maybe, it was all a little too much. Because I did miss some more focus, some more direction, at times. The story meandered a lot and that sometimes distracted from the main plot, which is actually pretty suspenseful. There are so many things this book aims to discuss, and because of that, it felt like it actually contained three entire books.

Have you read this book? Is it on your TBR?

If you order through the link in this post, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me review more books and host more giveaways, so I’d be very grateful if you used it!

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