Review: Absolute Brightness

Absolute Brightness
by James Lecesne
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Genre: Realistic Fiction, LGBT
Age Category: Young Adult
Release Date: May 31st 2016
Rating: 2

I received this book through The Fantastic Flying Book Club from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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


Oh, dear. This book was definitely not my cup of tea.

Absolute Brightness is the story of Leonard Pelkey, a gay fourteen year old who has recently moved in with his aunt and cousins. It is narrated from his cousin Phoebe’s POV.

I found this book very unsettling, and not just because of the content. I literally don’t even know where to start.

Leonard Pelkey was the only character whom I liked in this book. He was flamboyant and honest and was not afraid to be himself before a world full of mockers. However, he was present only for about 1/4th of the book. I found the narrator Phoebe to be quite annoying. She never tried to understand Leonard, and had a falling-out with her best friend for silly reasons. And there were a whole lot of secondary characters who weren’t properly developed at all.

The love story was mind-boggling. I never even realized when the MC and the love interest, Travis’ relationship crossed the line from love to hate. Travis was also not a fully developed character, and I honestly know nothing about him. Worst of all, they only met around 3-4 times throughout the entirety of the book.

The author drifted from topic to topic throughout the book (LGBT, the Iraq war, capital punishment) and it was cumbersome to read. The MC would lapse into many unnecessary details at times which was quite annoying. In fact, whole pages of the book could have been cut off, and it would have made no difference.


Overall, a love story which made no sense, and lengthy descriptions of unimportant things, and no character development. Pick it up at your own risk.

Oh, and thank you Ruzi @ The Regal Critiques for bearing with me as I ranted about this book 😛

Have you read Absolute Brightness? What are your favorite LGBT novels?



5 thoughts on “Review: Absolute Brightness

  1. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this book! The cover and the fact that it’s LGBT+ initially appealed to me, but now I don’t want to pick it up. I hate narratives that jump around, and sometimes it can just be best for a contemporary to focus on just a few themes, yet do them really well. I hope you enjoy your next read more!

    Denise | The Bibliolater


  2. What a let down! That synopsis was enough to make me want to pick this book up ( and LGBT, yay!), but now I don’t think I’ll be giving this a go. It’s really disheartening when books like this don’t realize their full potential, isn’t it? I’m sorry this one didn’t exactly live up to that wonderful premise, Div- hope your next read is better! Thanks for sharing 🙂


  3. Pingback: The Ten Book Challenge Tag! | Endless Pages

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