What if you were allergic to light... Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen (Review, Interview & #Giveaway)

I read North of Beautiful some years back and enjoyed it, so I was happy
 to get to read this author's newest, as well as ask her some questions about
 it. Check my review, her interview, and enter the tour giveaway below...

Lovely, Dark, and Deep
By Justina Chen
YA Contemporary
Hardcover & ebook, 352 Pages
July 31st 2018 by Arthur A. Levine Books


What would you do if the sun became your enemy?

That's exactly what happens to Viola Li after she returns from a trip abroad and develops a sudden and extreme case of photosensitivity -- an inexplicable allergy to sunlight. Thanks to her crisis-manager parents, she doesn't just have to wear layers of clothes and a hat the size of a spaceship. She has to stay away from all hint of light. Say goodbye to windows and running outdoors. Even her phone becomes a threat when its screen burns her.

Viola is determined to maintain a normal life, particularly after she meets Josh. He's a funny, talented Thor look-alike who carries his own mysterious grief. But the intensity of their romance makes her take more and more risks, and when a rebellion against her parents backfires dangerously, she must find her way to a life -- and love -- as deep and lovely as her dreams.


"A luminous read that will rekindle your faith in the indomitable human spirit and make you want to spend more time in starlight." ―Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook and Every Exquisite Thing

"Viola's story explores one of life's big questions: are we defined by our losses or will we allow them to lead us into an even more meaningful hero's journey? In Lovely, Dark, and Deep,Justina Chen has crafted an inspiring, romantic novel full of redemption and hope for teens and adults alike.” ―Mitali Perkins, author of You Bring the Distant Near

(Affiliate links included.)

Author Interview

1. What inspired the idea of a story about a girl becoming photosensitive?

While NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL was a love letter to my mom and RETURN TO ME one for my kids, LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP is my Valentine to Lorie Ann Grover. My bestie has lupus, which causes her photosensitivity. She is a role model of fierce joy—a woman who seizes joy even in the midst of hardship, like needing to stay in the dark for long periods of time.

2. Did you find any interesting or crazy facts about photosensitivity while researching?

Who knew that some people with photosensitivity could get burned from using a screen—their phone or computer? For a teen girl, that could mean feeling utterly isolated when you’re already consigned to the dark.

3. Would you share a little more about the main characters from LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP?

Meet Viola Li who wants to be a foreign correspondent—a journalist—much to the dismay of her crisis manager parents. She has her grand plan: attend New York University Abu Dhabi where she can be immersed in the Middle East. Then, say hello to giving voice to unheard and untold stories in the hardest places on earth. Yet Viola becomes suddenly and inexplicably allergic to the sun, and there is no way she can live for four years, let alone four hours, in one of the sunniest places on our planet.

And then there’s Josh, a Thor lookalike who’s dealing with a mysterious grief of his own. He’s a gifted storytelling whose brainstorming sessions are the ultimate, luscious wooing for a young woman of words.

4. What is your favorite aspect of the story?

I adored writing Viola’s parents—how loving their relationship is and how much of a partnership they have. I wanted to depict the kind of unconditional, loyal, and still sizzling hot love that I want for all my readers. #relationshipgoals!

5. What are you working on next?

I’ve been nesting a YA novel about twisted, narcissistic love, which isn’t love at all. I’ll begin to write that in earnest in the fall.

6. What is your favorite thing about summer?

What’s there not to love about summer (except mosquitoes)? Blueberries. Summer frocks. Flip flops. Raspberry-hued lip gloss. Homebrewed ice coffee. BBQ.

My Review

LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP is a story of a girl who finds herself unexpectedly faced with being allergic to light. The characters are instantly likable, the voice spot-on, and the story is a perfect mix of family, friendships, romance, heartbreak, a little comic superhero action, and the bittersweet of life's challenges. A perfect read for YA contemporary fans!

I can't express how much I absolutely loved Viola! She's a cool geek who is talented and confident. She knows what she wants and she's working towards that. Then she gets hit with this illness of photosensitivity and her life becomes completely unhinged. I loved seeing how Viola navigated all the different relationships and how her illness affected not only herself, but all those around her. I also liked how it brought to light how parts of her life weren't perfect... how she'd become a crutch in some ways for her sister and parents and how she confronted those issues. I loved seeing how Viola had some real self-assessment and development. I loved her research fact-finds and lists. The Viola at the beginning of the story was pretty awesome, but the one at the end, who had researched, been challenged, faced some serious difficulties, and recognized her own fears of living life... that Viola is amazing! I loved how things kind of come full circle in her "Seven Types of Tent-Dwellers You Know and Love" list that includes pretty much all the characters and their individual ways of cowardly living.

Beyond Viola's character development, there were some great relationships in this story. She's got best friends who also now have to navigate dealing with the gossip and reactions to her illness at school and to her disconnect and are still there for her in the coolest of ways. There are her overbearing, super protective parents who have their own issues. There is her sister, Roz, who she has a definitely love/hate relationship with. Her sister is such a pill, but has been so enabled. It was interesting seeing what happened with that. There's Viola's Auntie Ruth who is a very fun character. Finally, there's Josh. The other half of Viola's love life. He was really fun and very 18-year-old guyish. Lol! He had his own baggage which complicated things, but he's real and very serious about Viola. I loved, loved all their bantering and brainstorming over his comic! That aspect was a very, very fun aspect of this story!

I have maybe two mild complaints... It's actually about the format of the book. I got how cool the idea was of the various backgrounds and color of text, but when the page was dark and the text was black, it made for some difficult reading when I just wanted to devour the story. I also wasn't sure about one part of the happy ending... I would have been okay with things resolving a little differently, but at the same time, I also loved how it did resolve.

In the end, was it what I wished for? I really loved this story! I loved the balance of the serious against the romance, with some humor thrown in. I also loved the characters, all of them! I appreciated that the author didn't shy away from the harshness of the situation. It's tough and bitter and hard. She let Viola and her family deal with the aftermath in their chaotic, imperfect way towards a perfectly sweet ending, with so many little nuggets of wisdom found along the way.

Content: Some references to pre-marital sex (that occurred in the past), some serious making out, and mild swearing.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the author through Jean Book Nerd Tours, which did not require a positive review nor affect it in any way.

About the Author


Storytelling runs in Justina Chen’s blood. After all, her middle name means illuminate, which is what story does: it throws light on a message.

Justina is an award-winning author of six books for young adults. Her forthcoming novel, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, will be available in Spring, 2018. Her most recent book, A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS, is on a Booklist Top 10 list. NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL was named one of the Best Books of the Year by Kirkus Reviews and was a finalist of 9 state book awards. And her debut novel, NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (AND A FEW WHITE LIES), won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

In addition to being a writer, Justina is a story strategist to leaders and co-founder of Chen & Cragen, a boutique communications agency that transforms good executives into extraordinary leaders. Seen as a thought leader in communications, the Rockefeller Foundation invited Justina to be part of their twelve-person convening on storytelling for social good, along with CNN, BBC, NPR, and Google. Translation: she got to spend some quality time with amazing storytellers on the shores of Lake Bellagio.

A passionate advocate of literacy, Justina also co-founded readergirlz, a cutting-edge social media project for teens, which was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Prize for Innovations in Reading. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University where she won the Dean’s Award for Service.

Justina has lived in Sydney and Shanghai, but calls Seattle her home.

Tour-Wide Giveaway

3 Winners will receive an ARC Copy of LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP and Mini-Lanterns by Justina Chen.
- Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter | Ends August 24, 2018

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Have you read this one? What did you think of my review or the interview? Do you know anyone who is sensitive to the sun or light?

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