Author: James Lecesne
Publication Date: May 31st, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Synopsis: From Academy Award-winning writer, actor, and activist in the LGBTQ community comes a groundbreaking story about love, prejudice, and being yourself.
Phoebe’s life in Neptune, New Jersey, is somewhat unremarkable. She helps her mom out with her hair salon, she goes to school, and she envies her perfect older sister. But everything changes when Leonard arrives.
Leonard is an orphan, a cousin who Phoebe never knew she had. When he comes to live with Phoebe’s family, he upsets the delicate balance of their lives. He’s gay and confident about who he is. He inspires the people around him. He sees people not as they are, but as they hope to be.
One day, Leonard goes missing. Phoebe, her family, and her community fight to understand what happened, and to make sense of why someone might want to extinguish the beautiful absolute brightness that was Leonard Pelkey.
This novel by James Lecesne, the cofounder of The Trevor Project, inspired the critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway show The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.
A William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist
“This book will encourage you to be exactly who you are.” —Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues
“This complex, illuminating and beautiful book reminds us we have to look for the light even in the darkest corners.” —Brian Selznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret
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I like reading books that are supportive of the LGBTQ community, and I feel that they are incredibly important not only among YA readers, but among all groups of readers alike. Books like Absolute Brightness deliver an important message of hope and acceptance, as well as being happy with who you are and standing up for what you believe in, no matter what anyone else has to say about it.
This book starts off with Phoebe, our main character, shopping in a grocery store with her mother and sister. Her mother nonchalantly tells the girls that their cousin Leonard (who the girls didn’t even know about) would be coming to stay with them. Phoebe’s life is pretty boring, and while she isn’t sure what things will be like once Leonard gets there, she is reluctant to have to share her home with a stranger she has never met. Once Leonard gets there, however, things change – Leonard is a wonderful person who is happy with who he is and isn’t afraid to make that known. While Leonard is gay, he isn’t afraid to hide that or who he is, making him an inspiration to many of those around him. While he not only befriends some of those around him and lights up their lives, he does so with a light, confident air that is quite admirable.
However, when tragedy strikes and Leonard goes missing, Phoebe must try to work with her community to find out where Leonard has gone and what has happened to him.
While this book is a beautifully written novel full of important messages and characters that are full of life and personality, it does tend to spend a lot of time on the characters (some of them even secondary characters that you wouldn’t think that the detailed backgrounds would matter so much to the book). While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all, it does make the book seem quite long and it took me a little bit to get through it. That doesn’t take away from the story in the slightest, and I feel like it does a great job enriching the novel because it really lets you get a feel for the situation and the people in the novel.
Absolute Brightness is a powerful, must-read novel for anyone! James Lecesne definitely has a talent for capturing the beauty in people.
Note: I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
For over 25 years I’ve been telling stories. Whether I’m writing, acting, producing or trying to create social change, it’s usually the story that got me involved. But in the process of getting things done and trying to make the world a better place, I’ve also been telling the story of my life. This website is my best effort to provide the general gist. But my hope is that you find something here that will inspire you to live your life more fully and continue to tell your story.
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