Published by Disney-Hyperion on April 10, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: YA (Touches on themes of death and suicide---as well as other topics---but not in an explicit way)
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.
This is one of those books that I’ll be thinking about for a long time. There was just so much substance to it, and it addressed several important topics from unique perspectives.
The problem is, this is a tough book to review without spoiling things, so I’m going to be very general in my review. Trust me when I say you should just read it for yourself!
What Fed My Addiction:
- Covers all the issues. Without feeling like an issue book. This book touches on so many topics, and honestly, that’s hard to do well. Oftentimes when I read a book like this, I feel a little overwhelmed or like I’m constantly being hit over the head with another issue, but somehow Gilbert manages to weave them all in so seamlessly that I almost don’t notice they’re there. This is because Gilbert focuses so much more on Danny’s emotional journey than she does on the issues themselves. I found myself completely connected to Danny, and I was seeing the world through his eyes—so each topic that was addressed felt more like an actual roadblock in life rather than some sort of “life lesson” where I was supposed to take a side.
- I started to make a list of the topics that were tackled with an explanation of why they were handled well, but then I realized that almost all of them were spoilers in some way, shape or form. I went into the story completely blind (I hadn’t even read the blurb since the book was first offered to me for review), and I think it’s better that way, so I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else.
- Suffice it to say, every topic that was covered was handled in a subtle and nuanced way. There were no easy answers given and very few judgments of right or wrong.
- Family ties. Danny’s parents are incredibly important to him, and he is their sun and moon. Their love for each other leaps off the page, which makes it even more difficult for Danny when things start to get complicated.
- Friendships you can’t help but adore. Again, Danny and his friends aren’t perfect. There are rifts in the friendship, there are strains, there are painful moments—but through it all, Danny has people in his life who love him no matter what. People who will be there for him, even when they want to be mad. It all felt very realistic, and I loved this aspect of the book!
- The feels. Be prepared to cry. Just … yep.
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- Slight slow-down in the middle. First off, I guessed one of the major secrets of the book in the first ten pages, and it wasn’t revealed until almost the very end, so I kept waiting to find out the details. I will say, that even though I guessed the general gist of the reveal, those details definitely surprised me. My main issue was that when I got somewhere around the middle of the book, I was having trouble figuring out why Danny hadn’t delved in a little bit more and found out the truth. This made the middle of the book lag for me, the tiniest bit, but I thought that the whirlwind of secrets that were revealed in the last quarter of the book totally made up for it.
This book delves into the complexities of family and the lies we’ll tell to protect the ones we love. And, of course, sometimes the lies we tell ourselves can be the hardest to uncover.
A short note about the names: I happened across a complaint about the non-Asian-sounding names in this book on Goodreads. This prompted me to write a defense (of sorts—not that I’m in a position to defend), but it got long and I ended up turning it into a discussion post. Watch for it next week.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author
Kelly Loy Gilbert is the author of CONVICTION and PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT (Disney-Hyperion, spring 2018). She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ooh, a family secrets book. I’m adding it to my TBR. Great review!
LOTS of family secrets, so if you like that, you’ll love this book!
Great review. I was drawn to the cover to begin with, so it’s great to hear that the inside is even better.
It is a great cover, I have to agree!
This is the second review I’ve seen in the last 2 days and both have been glowing 5 star reviews. I have *got* to read this one! I especially like what you said about how it covers many issues without ever feeling like an “issue book.” Great review, Nicole! I’m sold on this one.
Yeah, often a book that tackles several issues can seem overwhelming or too preachy. This one managed to sidestep that completely.
Oh, I loved this one so much. I guessed one aspect of the family secrets too, but definitely not everything – and I like how you said it focused on a lot of issues but didn’t feel like an issue book. This is so true. I’m really glad you loved this one too. 🙂
I’m wondering if we guessed the same part… 🙂
I love when an author incorporates a lot of issues into a book, but it doesn’t feel like an issues book. Gold Star for Gilbert. I heard her last book, Conviction, is awesome too.
I really want to read Conviction now. Definitely added that one to my TBR!
This sounds like such a good book and that cover is gorgeous. I definitely want to get my hands on this one.
I hope you love it!
This sounds quite good! It wasn’t on my radar (art is scary?) but I may be reconsidering. Also super excited to read your discussion post about it, I am quite curious about this whole topic! Fabulous review!
I think I was just so excited to be inspired to write a discussion that —- yay! I need to grab those chances where I can lately.
Nicole, it sounds like such a mysterious book! I haven’t seen this book before around the Internet, but it does look quite a bit like “You’re Welcome, Universe”. Just the person doing something artistic on the cover, and the colors are rather similar.
I suppose it’s nice that there is nuance and sensitivity while addressing the big mystery in the book. I am probably the only strange person who doesn’t mind spoilers at all and would have loved to read more details in the review. Definitely looking forward to your discussion about the names in this book later on the blog!
I can email you some of the stuff that was involved in the plot that I didn’t want to reveal, if you want! 🙂
That’s huge that the author made you focus more on the emotional journey instead of just the issues. A lot of times that doesn’t happen, or at least that’s the case in some of the books I have run across. I’m definitely going to think about this one!
Right. Sometimes a book that covers a lot of issues ends up feeling preachy or over-the-top, but this one didn’t at all.