“A Scatter of Light”: A Fresh Take on Growing Up


May Nguyen, Staff Writer

On Oct. 4, Malinda Lo returns to the writing scene with her highly anticipated second historical fiction contemporary young adult novel, “A Scatter of Light.” Pitched as the companion novel to her New York Times Best Seller “Last Night at the Telegraph Club,” “A Scatter of Light” follows Aria West’s coming-of-age journey, set against the backdrop of the legalization of gay marriage in the United States.

The story spans Aria’s summer at her grandma’s house after nude photos leaked at a party. She finds herself spending time with a group of girls and has an intense attraction to one of them. Aria slowly explores her sexuality through spending time with the special girl, friends, art, and pride events. This was the best part of the book. Lo introduces queer movie interpretations, creators like painter Bernice Bing and poet Adrienne Rich. I feel that her use of real-life examples allowed the story to go beyond fiction and connect back to the pioneers who are often overlooked. Researching queer history is an overwhelming experience now made easier with starting points and a character who went through the same thing.

While light in terms of continuous plot, the novel appeals to fans with a unique writing style. Lo balances her writing by using flowery language for flashbacks and explaining the abstract art process but turning more simplistic when emphasizing human emotions. Lo is the type of writer to make you think, “Wow, how is the human mind capable of writing such a beautiful thing?” I believe that is what separates enjoyable books from ones with long-term impact.

One critique I have of this novel is Lo’s attempt to cover too many topics within 350 pages. The exploration of parental relationships and the subplot of Aria’s old friends felt unfinished. The foundations were well laid, but I felt robbed of more depth that would have made the story more engaging.

Overall, “A Scatter of Light” encompasses a messy coming-of-age story that may not fit all readers’ styles but can offer a meaningful reading experience if you give the novel a chance. I highly recommend that you do so.