Picture Us in the Light

368p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484726020.
RedReviewStarGr 9 Up—A glimpse into the lives of teens who are dealing with issues surrounding academic excellence and parental pressure. This offering by the author of Conviction tackles topics such as suicide, sexual identity, and loss. Danny Cheng and his friends attend one of Cupertino's privileged public high schools and future success is almost certain. Danny's artistic talent has been recognized by his dream school, RISD, and no one is more proud of his full scholarship than his first-generation Chinese American parents. When Danny accidentally discovers a box of his father's papers containing copies of names, photos, and public records of a powerful Silicon Valley family, he wonders if his parents are involved in something illegal with ties to their former life in China. On the cusp of adulthood yet under consistent parental watch, Danny is determined to unravel the mystery of his family's painful past while navigating increasingly complicated personal relationships and school life. The strength of this novel lies in the ambitious main character's simultaneous snark and vulnerability, which sways readers' loyalty between him and his well-meaning parents. Uncomfortable feelings are communicated through smart, acerbic exchanges and Danny's inner monologues. Dreamlike flashbacks smoothly weave the past's secrets into present-day plotlines. Despite their obvious wealth and sheltered upbringings, the characters are a likable complement to the strange but plausible underlying mystery. The author demonstrates exquisite facility with tech-savvy teen-speak in every scenario and balances the authentic dialogue with elegant prose.
VERDICT An excellent choice for YA collections.

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