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Literature / Lovely Dark And Deep

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Lovely, Dark and Deep is a 2019 novel by Justina Chen.

Viola Wynne Li is a baker, teen journalist, and unashamed Firefly fan. While hosting a bake sale at a convention, Viola collapses and has to go to the hospital. After a few tests, Viola is diagnosed with extreme photosensitivity. She doesn't want to give up her dreams, but you can't go to Abu Dhabi for journalism when your skin blisters under a few minutes of sun.


Tropes for this book include:

  • Apology Gift:
    • Josh's special edition of his comic Persephone, though he doesn't give it to Viola, is one where he admits he misses her through the fictional titular character's interactions with her love interest.
    • The first sign that Roz is changing for the better is when she brings an unopened tub of Molly Moon's ice-cream with a flavor Viola likes, and knocks on the basement door to offer it to her older sister. It's also an apology for how much of a jerk she's been about Viola's condition.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: As Viola bitterly tells her parents, they want her to stay inside all the time and turned the basement into a sunproof bunker without telling her. But when she actually does hole up in the basement for weeks on end, she stops baking and is obviously depressed. They try to coax her upstairs to cook again and rethink her career, but she refuses because it seems like pity.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Viola accepts that she will no longer be a journalist or travel the world to cover injustice. She instead can travel to places known for their darkness or short daylight hours and develops a practical plan for college. Roz accepts that Viola is no longer her attendant. Josh sheds his guilt and rekindles his relationship with her.
  • Break the Haughty: Roz starts the book as a Spoiled Brat that has spent years guilting Viola into accommodating her and driving her around. With Viola standing up to her, since Viola can no longer drive her around and is too ill to spoil her rotten, Roz is forced to become more independent.
  • Cool Aunt: Auntie Ruth, who took Viola on the fateful trip that may have led to her condition. Her guilt and canceling future trips plants the seeds of Viola's Heroic BSoD, but she comes to help when Viola is burning on the slope. When Viola's Heroic BSoD is in full swing, Auntie Ruth shows He's Back by showing up with books by disabled authors and mentioning the exact career that Viola could do now that journalism is out: gastrodiplomacy. She's the only one that has faith in Viola being able to go outside and live her life, and her mentioning gastro
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  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Viola hates that everyone starts looking at her with pity after she develops her condition. It's why she rejects her parents' ideas of career alternatives to journalism because they seem like consolation prizes that aren't aligned with what she wants. Josh completely understands.
  • He's Back:
    • Auntie Ruth spends most of the book guiltily checking on Viola because she's worried the trip to the Serengeti Plains —specifically, the anti-malaria meds— caused the photosensitivity. Then when Viola sinks into Heroic BSoD and spends all of October in the sunproof basement, she comes roaring in on her motorcycle and telling her to not hide inside all the time. She also provides the perfect alternative career to journalism that actually aligns with what Viola wants.
    • Viola marks the end of her Heroic BSoD by baking and cooking, and also providing a Plan B for her parents about schooling and college. Her parents are so relieved that she's no longer in Heroic BSoD that they listen to her for once.
  • Hope Spot: Viola goes out to see the Geminids in hopes of proving she can be independent. Thing is the snow is so heavy that the pass is closed for hours on end. The sun reflecting off the snow the next day burns her badly and nearly kills her.
  • It's All My Fault: Josh blames himself for nearly getting Viola killed during the meteor shower. He also blamed himself for a drunk driver careening into the car his brother was driving, even though Josh, if Caleb hadn't driven, may have gotten into his car drunk and died instead.
  • Jerkass Realization:
    • Viola's parents realize they enabled Roz to become a Spoiled Brat when she throws a tantrum about them not letting her travel and shows No Sympathy when Viola nearly faints while baking. Her dad overhears Viola's "The Reason You Suck" Speech about chauffeuring her everywhere, delivering pizza on demand, and spending three months of allowance on an extravagant birthday event because Roz wanted to see her favorite bands. He apologizes to a tired, angry V Iola about putting pressure on her to be a good sister. By the end, their parents agree that Roz has to get a license and drive herself and that Viola doesn't need to cater to her. And they eventually accept Viola has to live on her terms, rather than micromanaging every step of her health journey because it will otherwise leave her very depressed.
    • It's implied Roz has one offscreen after Viola's "The Reason You Suck" Speech. A few weeks after their confrontation, Roz knocks on the basement door with a tub of unopened caramel ice cream for Viola, apologizing that it's melting because she took the bus to the parlor. Viola thanks her and appreciates the gesture because Roz for once made effort for her older sister.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: Viola spends her life accommodating Roz's tantrums due to her little sister stepping on a nail when Viola was arguing with her. After Viola realizes she literally can't go outside, her parents agree that Viola can't drive Roz anywhere until the car windows are tinted, and a Heroic BSoD Viola under house arrest gives Roz a "The Reason You Suck" Speech when Roz offers her ice-cream leftovers and expects that's "being nice".
  • Parents as People: Viola and Roz's parents are great parents, but are a tad overprotective. They also did enable Roz to become a Spoiled Brat.
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • The family knows that Viola's Heroic BSoD is serious when she gives up cooking for days on end, and especially when it's implied her parents see her broken phone.
    • Viola's parents are so worried about Viola holing herself up in the basement that they compliment her on her college essay and suggest "safer" alternatives to her shattered journalism career. It doesn't work because for Viola, these options such as being a news producer or think tank researcher seem like consolation pity prizes.
  • Time for Plan B: Viola sinks into Heroic BSoD after Josh doesn't text in weeks and she's too weak to bake. With her journalism career shot, her parents suggest that she could work as a new producer, talk show writer, academic, or think tank researcher. She doesn't want to consider these options because they seem like consolation pity prize careers. Auntie Ruth ends up suggesting the better Plan B: gastrodiplomacy, which can change the world with good food. Also, Viola devises a plan to go to college and build her own major.

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