Review: A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

October 2, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: A Line in the Dark by Malinda LoA Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo
Published by Dutton Juvenile on October 17, 2017
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
The line between best friend and something more is a line always crossed in the dark.

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

“It doesn’t even matter that she probably doesn’t understand how much she means to me. It’s purer this way. She can take whatever she wants from me, whenever she wants it, because I’m her best friend.”

A Line in the Dark is a story of love, loyalty, and murder.

Diversity: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 4 (Jess and her family are Chinese, as is Jess’s new friend Emily)
QUILTBAG: 5 (Jess, Angie, and Margot are all queer and none of them die)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 3 (Whoo, queer girls everywhere!)

Fun fact: I have a copy of Ash signed and personalized by Malinda Lo, but it’s signed to someone named Whitney. I found it in a used bookstore and it is my precious. Anyway, a mysterious book starring queer girls and someone ending up dead? I’m always here for mysteries! Add queer girls everywhere and I’m on the hook just waiting to be pulled out of the lake.

And no, none of the queer girls end up dead. THE REPRESENTATION BAR HAS BEEN SET SO LOW THAT THIS ACTUALLY EXCITES ME. Gotta love the state of media, y’all.

A Line in the Dark is a novel sliced neatly down the middle to tell two stories: the events leading up to a Christmas party and the after of that party. Before, Jessica Wong and Angie Redmond are queer best friends living in West Bedford. Jess is in love with Angie, but after Angie meets and starts dating East Bedford boarding school attendee Margot Adams, their friendship becomes strained.

This first part of the book moves slowly but sets the mood with Jess’s rather creepy occupation with Angie and Margot’s classmate Emily telling Jess that Margot and her best friend Ryan are much more cruel than they seem to be. As Jess finds out by being in the right place at the right time, vicious, straightforward Ryan is also in a secret relationship with a teacher.

Then comes the Christmas party that changes everything. It initially seems innocuous, especially since the prologue is a scene from that party taken out of context and made to seem much more serious than it actually is, but nothing is the same after it. Ryan has disappeared, Angie and Jess are acting as if nothing happened despite how strained their friendship became, and police are taking to the three remaining girls regularly. The comic Jess has been working on for years suddenly takes a much darker turn that’s too metaphorical not to have some grounding in her life.

While the first half is solely told in Jess’s first-person POV, the second half mixes together transcripts of police interviews with the girls and third-person POV prose. The second half is where the tight writing and plotting really hit their stride, making sure readers will be keeping themselves up into the night so they can find out what happened. I can say that with certainty seeing as I did do just that. I was up until 1 AM finishing off A Line in the Dark!

As I mentioned at the beginning, there are no dead queer girls in the book. That’s great on its own for anyone tired of our gays being fridged one way or another, but there’s no homophobia either! If you want to escape our bigotry-ridden world for a while and enjoy a nice mystery, A Line in the Dark will let you do just that.

My one hang-up is that the ending requires I believe much more in the involved characters’ relationships than I do. It’s hard to explain without giving away the (admittedly anticlimactic) ending, but it left me feeling underwhelmed.

Of course, we never do find out if Margot and Ryan were the girls Emily claimed they were. If she was telling the truth, that makes what happened a little more believable.

A Line in the Dark is the queer girl mystery/thriller you’ve been waiting for. Though I’ll be sad to let my ARC go, I’ve already got a few people in mind to pass it on to. I’d rather give it to readers whose marginalizations are in these pages than hoard it all to myself like a little dragon! (Besides, the hardcover will look so very nice on my shelf.)

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