Viola Li has her future as a globe-trotting journalist all planned out, but everything comes into question when her body suddenly betrays her.
Passionate and ambitious, Viola, a biracial (Chinese/white) 18-year-old, is unmoored when her skin begins to react terribly in the sun and she must curtail her exposure to all light, including computer and phone screens. As Viola’s photosensitivity worsens and her world becomes more restricted (the first page of each chapter gets progressively darker throughout the book), her only ray of metaphorical light is her burgeoning relationship with white Thor look-alike Josh Taylor, whom her parents disapprove of. When a romantic outing becomes life-threatening, its aftermath includes Viola’s move into the basement and challenges with Josh (who has his own issues). It is then that she finally finds the strength to make a new life plan. Much of the book revolves around the conflict between what Viola’s overprotective, crisis-manager parents want for her and her own acceptance of her condition, and Chen (A Blind Spot for Boys, 2014, etc.) gives readers a sensitive glimpse into what living with a chronic illness might be like. Snarky humor and nontraditional narrative structures (lists, texts, cinematic scenes, etc.) offset an otherwise somber situation but may also prevent readers from fully connecting emotionally. Nevertheless, readers will root for Viola as she searches for new purpose.
A strong exploration of resilience in the face of life unpredictable. (Fiction. 13-18)