Sunday, June 04, 2023

A Scatter of Light, by Malinda Lo

When pictures of Aria topless find their way on to Instagram, her parents decide it would be best if she spent her last summer before college with her grandmother in San Francisco rather than unsupervised with friends on Martha's Vineyard.  While she is naturally resentful of this decision, she eventually finds her summer to be memorable.  

Set in 2013, right after California legalized same sex marriage, Aria undergoes her own realization that she might be a lesbian as she falls in love with Steph, her grandmother's gardener  At the same time, her grandmother Joan opens Aria's eyes to art.  Aria, who wants to study astronomy and is on her way to MIT, has never entertained that she has artistic leanings, but under her grandmother's guidance, she starts to blossom as an artist.

In sum, a coming of age story with several different facets. Aria's transformation is interesting to follow, but she's a surprisingly dull protagonist.  She goes through a number of important self-realizations, but they mostly seem to bounce off of her and I felt largely excluded from what she was experiencing.  It doesn't help that both Joan and Steph are cut out of the story rather abruptly, leaving Aria on her own to sort things out at the end.  And instead of doing so, the novel simply jumps ten years ahead after everything has worked out.

Intended to be a companion work to a much heavier novel called Last Night at the Telegraph Club, this novel stands on its own and makes only fleeting reference to the characters of that book.

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