A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo
After a camera phone, a high school boy, and the internet ruin her reputation, Aria Tang West spends the summer with her grandmother in a small town in California. Honestly, that beginning didn’t hook me in. But as soon as she meets her grandmother’s gardener, Steph, she’s hooked for the summer and so was I.
Escaping the implications of a scarlet letter may mean losing the loyalty and contact with her best friends, but it doesn’t mean a boring summer. Aria’s grandmother, Joan West, is a well-known artist, and she opens her studio to Aria to explore her artistic nature. When the alluring Steph and her friends start inviting Aria to hang out with them at local digs and in nearby San Francisco, art isn’t the only thing Aria explores.
Love and desire aren’t what Aria expected or had thought them to be. While a handsome boy taking shirtless pictures of her was perhaps exciting and forbidden, she soon realizes that wasn’t ever what she wanted. And she isn’t without her flaws, of course. No protagonist is perfect. Aria feels the desire budding for someone who is extremely unavailable. Each whispered conversation and casual touch electrifies her in a way no previous relationship ever had. Getting a burger at In-and-Out has never seemed so intoxicatingly romantic. But does Steph even consider her in that way?
While I may have expected the author of Last Night at the Telegraph Club to provide me with a sequel to Lily and Kath’s relationship, this companion novel was a delightful addition that can also stand alone. It is a coming-of-age, coming out, first romance kind of story that takes place in 2013 when gay marriage was legalized in California. The artistic elements of the writing and story enveloped me and my younger (not out yet) gay self. It gave me permission to feel left out of coming-of-age experiences when I was still deeply closeted. Aria fights the compulsory heterosexuality she has seen all around her and has the courage to admit that that isn’t all she feels. Unlike Lily and Kath, she has the support of family and friends to be who she truly is, and we even get a glimpse into Lily and Kath’s lives 60 years down the line. Malinda Lo has provided readers once again with a tale of growing into one’s true self and being free to feel the joys of desire, and making the mistakes of youth. There are moments to laugh, to cry, and to feel the beauty and complexity of human connection. This is a charming and delightful story with just enough heat for those romance fans out there.
Amanda Carini (she/her/hers) is a librarian at the Denver Public Library. She will earn her MLIS from the University of Denver in June 2023. She lives with her partner and dog in Denver. When not reading, which consumes much of her time, she is drinking copious amounts of coffee, driving the Bookmobile, hiking through the mountains, and painting watercolors.
JULIA E. TORRES is a nationally recognized veteran language arts teacher, librarian, and teen programs administrator in Denver, Colorado. Julia facilitates teacher development workshops rooted in the areas of anti-racist education, equity and access in literacy and librarianship, and education as a practice of liberation. Julia’s work has been featured on NPR, AlJazeera’s The Stream, PBS Education, KQED’s MindShift, Rethinking Schools, Learning for Justice Magazine, School Library Journal, American Libraries Magazine, and many more. She is a Book Love Foundation board member, Educolor Working Group member, a Book Ambassador for The Educator Collaborative, and a co-founder of #DisruptTexts. Her co-authored title Liven Up Your Library: Design Engaging and Inclusive Programs for Teens and Tweens is just the first of many forthcoming publications for librarians and educators. Learn more about Julia on her website juliaetorres.com or on social media @juliaerin80