From Academy Award-winning writer, actor, and activist in the LGBTQ community comes a groundbreaking story about love, prejudice, and being yourself.
“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
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
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|File size:||848 KB|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
James Lecesne is an author, actor, and activist, whose film Trevor received an Academy Award for best short film. James cofounded the Trevor Project, a 24-hour suicide-prevention hotline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning teens. He is the author of Absolute Brightness, the book that inspired the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway play The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. He lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
I was stalled in aisle 7 of our local supermarket, musing over the selection of potato chips and saying something like, "But really, don't you think thirty-seven different types of chips is a ridiculous number to choose from? I mean, how did we end up living in a country that makes a big deal over everything squeaky-clean and then at the same time makes you pay extra for chips called 'dirty'?"
As usual, Mom hadn't heard a word I'd said. Instead, she was standing in the middle of the aisle, smiling at nothing in particular and referring to her shopping list as if it were about to tell her something about her life that she didn't already know. My sister, Deirdre, was hanging the top half of her body over the shopping cart, letting her long, luxurious chestnut-colored hair touch the unpaid-for produce. She couldn't hear me even if she'd been so inclined; she was plugged into her iPod and humming along. If you happened to be passing by, you might have assumed that Deirdre was just some girl about to be sick into the cart, or you might have mistaken her humming for the kind of low moaning that is popular with television actors starring in telenovelas when they've just been fatally shot.
Deirdre has always been considered the great beauty in our family, so I made a point of keeping a certain distance from her. Someone might be forced to compare us, and I would only come up short. Literally. Deirdre is a full four inches taller than I am. Deirdre has always been the tall beautiful one. I was . . . well, I was Phoebe. I've also avoided lingering too long over her physical features, like her delicate bone structure,her glittery green eyes or the aforementioned full-bodied head of gorgeous, chestnut-colored hair. Compare and despair. It's true that I've never tried that hard in the beauty department. What's the point? That's Deirdre's territory. It was as if Deirdre had used up all the genetic coding in our family for beauty, and I got whatever was left over, the dregs. Everyone was always looking at her, admiring her, telling her how beautiful she looked, how perfect her outfit was, and asking where she got her shoes. From top to bottom she was Neptune's "it" girl. I was the also-ran. It's lucky I loved Deirdre as much as I did; otherwise I would have hated her guts.
It's not that I'm bad-looking. But my arms and legs have always been a bit too square, my hips are wide and I have a butt. I like my breasts. Once I got over the embarrassment of actually having breasts, I discovered that they gave me power over the boys at school when I wore a certain kind of top. My face is fine, but maybe it's a bit too flat and round to be considered anything other than just cute. Personally, I think my brown eyes are a little too far apart and they don't sparkle nearly as much as I would like, but I can see the world well enough with them, so I guess I shouldn't complain. I dye my hair; I always have. It's my signature thing, my way to keep from being overlooked or forgotten altogether. As my mother has always reminded us girls, "Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but for god's sakes give 'em something worth beholding."
Mom poked Deirdre in the ribs and told her to stand up straight and take her earbuds out. Mom had an announcement to make. And then without any fanfare whatsoever, in the middle of aisle 7, she told us that our cousin Leonard would be coming to live with us.
"And soon," she added. "I mean, this Saturday."
"I didn't know we had a cousin," was the first thing out of my mouth.
Now normally, I don't like to hang out near the frozen foods. You can freeze your legs off if you linger too long in shorts by the Tater Tots and TV dinners. But we were stuck. Mom had decided that this was the time and place to tell us exactly who Leonard Pelkey was and why he would soon be living under our roof. By the time she had finished, my teeth were chattering and my fingertips had gone numb.
Apparently, Leonard was the son of Janet Somebody from Phoenix who had been getting beaten up pretty regularly by her husband. Finally, she ran off with baby Leonard and tried to piece together a life. Years later, when Leonard was about eleven, Janet met my mother's brother, Mike, in a bar. After noticing that he had a job, she started living with Mike in a low-rise apartment complex with a Spanish-inspired motif until she died of breast cancer the following year, which forced my uncle Mike to become Leonard's legal guardian. But Mike wasn't much of a father figure. He finally broke down, called my mother and cried long distance. He admitted that he couldn't handle the responsibility of raising a kid on his own. Mom asked him why this was the first she'd heard from him in two years. Uncle Mike explained that he had been traveling back and forth to Mexico and working on a scheme to raise some kind of cattle, which would later be sold for a ton of money. He wanted to know if Leonard could live with us—just until his cattle began to pay off.
After Mom finished telling us the story of Leonard, we made our way to the checkout, where Mrs. Toucci rang us up. Mrs. T. took the opportunity to badger Mom; she wanted one of Mom's prime Saturday-morning appointment slots because, she said, she was going to a wedding in Atlantic City. Mom stood firm and explained to Mrs. T. that her beauty salon was not a fly-by-night joint, and her Saturday slots were sacrosanct.Absolute Brightness. Copyright © by James Lecesne. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Leonard Pelkey doesn't fit in anywhere. His mother has died, leaving him with Phoebe's uncle, now his legal guardian. But Uncle Mike has plans to go to Mexico to invest in cattle. So Phoebe's mom, Ellen, arranges for Leonard to come and live with them in Neptune, New Jersey. But Neptune isn't ready for Leonard. Saying Leonard is a bit outrageous is being optimistic. Phoebe and her sister, Deirdre, treat Leonard as an unwelcome house guest, going so far as creating a living space for Leonard in the basement surrounded by filled cardboard boxes.
But this doesn't stop Leonard from going full-steam-ahead with his life in Neptune. He infuses himself into Ellen's beauty shop business, and slowly, the old ladies that frequent the shop start to subtly change under his tutelage. Phoebe's mom finally starts taking an interest in her appearance again. He even gets Deirdre to drastically change her style.
But Phoebe feels left out. Leonard is showing an interest in making over everyone but her. Why does he not bother offering her tips? Then again, Phoebe has done nothing but give him a hard time ever since he moved in.
But one night, everything changes. One day he doesn't return from Drama Camp. With the help of Detective Chuck, Phoebe and her family begin a long journey to find out what happened to Leonard. During the days of the investigation, Phoebe begins to acknowledge to herself that she misses Leonard and regrets all that happened between then.
As the story reaches its climax with the revelation of Leonard's disappearance, the main characters reveal secret that have been festering within Phoebe's family for years.
Mr. Lecesne writes a harrowing story of how a community can react to someone who comes off as different. Leonard infuses joy in all he does, and only too late does Phoebe realize the effort that Leonard put into showing the world such a positive face. The story is heavy, but very moving. I did feel that there were a couple of plot lines that were put in that were left dangling. But none of them were vital to the outcome of the story.
Mr. Lecesne leaves the reader guessing as to Leonard's sexual preference throughout the entire book. But the reader doesn't have to know one way or the other, because there is more to the story than the issue of sexual orientation. ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS brings to mind the story of WHAT HAPPENED TO LANI GARVER by Carol Plum-Ucci. But Mr. Lecesne brings his story to a definite conclusion, unlike Ms. Plum-Ucci's story, which leaves the reader guessing at the end.
I read this book a few weeks ago, and it was funny, and emotional. I thought it was fantastic, it combined worry, humor, and a little bit of mystery all in one... i liked it a lot, and i would recommend it to anyone.
Okay this book is the best book , in my opinion is it as good as the whole twilight series. This author should make a part 2....Please please please make a part 2 and 3. I love it a lot and I just finished reading it, lol. It was a story that would stick in your mind forever and it is very very very different which is very great because it is unique unlike all the books that copy bestsellers. This is truly the most wonderful book, it gives you things that could happen to many people. I feel that this should even be a movie so if anyone wants to read it you should. THIS IS ONCE AGAIN THE BEST AND WELL WRITTEN BOOK I HAVE READ NEXT TO THE TWILIGHT AND OTHER OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS AND I AM SUPER PICKY. YOU MUST GET THIS BOOK. Also I am not screaming I was just trying to bold out the words. Okay so it is a great book so please consider getting it. The characters are unique, funny and interesting. I love how you feel like you are in the book yourself. Well hope you enjoyed my review , Thank you.
Okay this book is the best book , in my opinion is it as good as the whole twilight series. This author should make a part 2....Please please please make a part 2 and 3. I luv it a lot and I just finished reading it, lol. It was a story that would stick in your mind forever and it is very very very different which is very great because it is unique unlike all the books that copy bestsellers. This is truly the most wonderful book, it gives you things that could happen to many people. I feel that this should even be a movie so if anyone wants to read it you should.THIS IS ONCE AGAIN THE BEST AND WELL WRITTEN BOOK I HAVE READ NEXT TO THE TWILIGHT AND OTHER OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS AND I AM SUPER PICKY. YOU MUST GET THIS BOOK. Also I am not screaming I was just trying to bold out the words. Okay so it is a great book sooo please consider getting it. Thank you and P3AC3.
I read this a while ago but i loved it. I was truely shocked at the ending, even thought I knew it was coming, I was still heartbroken at the end.. I would recommend this to anyone who doesn't mind a good read with a (somewhat) tragic ending.
OMG! this is one of the best books i have ever read!! it made me cry,laugh, and everything else! u will absolutly love it ! read it!
This book rocks! It's very interesting always, and funny at times. I highly recommend it!