Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!
Today’s pick is a loose companion to one of my favorite books of 2021, the wonderful Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo! I was really excited to learn that she’d have another book out this year (she sometimes takes a few years to write books, which is understandable when they’re as good as they are!) and I was even more intrigued to learn that it would connect to Last Night. It did not disappoint!
A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo
Set in the summer of 2013, Aria Tang West is not at all happy that an incident at the end of her senior year has ruined her plans for the summer. Originally, she was supposed to spend the summer with friends on Martha’s Vineyard before heading off to college at MIT, but instead she’s shipped off to California to live with her grandmother for the summer. But it’s not all bad — her grandmother is the famous artist Joan West, and she has a gardener named Steph whose friendship Aria appreciates. But as the summer slides by and many of Aria’s perceptions about the world and herself are challenged, she soon finds herself falling for Steph, no matter the consequences.
I was very intrigued by this book and the chosen setting of 2013. It’s long enough ago that I think Aria’s general cluelessness about queer issues, despite growing up in a progressive place, feels realistic and yet it’s not so long ago that I am wholly comfortable labeling it at historical fiction. (Mainly because I was not much older than Steph in 2013!) Having lived through it, I thought that Lo did a great job of capturing that particular point in time where queer issues weren’t quite at the forefront and part of the mainstream society, but were definitely heading in that direction. What Lo does so well in Last Night at the Telegraph Club is craft a narrative about a girl realizing that she is queer slowly, through very specific moments and feelings, and she does it yet again here, but in an entirely different time period and context — dyke marches instead of underground dyke clubs, and a circle of queer friends who are out and proud help inform Aria’s journey. Aria is naive, a little self-centered, and curious, and despite her less-than-great choices, I felt myself rooting for her because of her generosity and interest in the world. I loved how Lo played with time here, as well. The prologue starts in 2008, the bulk of the book takes place in 2013, and an epilogue takes place in 2023. It’s not often that you get glimpses of YA characters over those long stretches of time, and I really appreciated that little peek into Aria’s life ten years into he future — not what you expect, but that’s okay!
I will continue to read and love everything that Lo puts out, and this might just be my new favorite book of hers! I highly recommend it, even if you haven’t read Last Night at the Telegraph Club — the connection is small, although it is sweet if you loved that book!
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