A Line In the Dark - Malinda Lo

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.

This is a really interesting story with a twist that, whether you see it coming or not, will keep you on your toes. I have to say, I definitely have a thing for unreliable narratives and narrators, and this is a fabulous example. After the events of the first half of the novel, when everything starts to come into question, Jess, Angie, and Margot are all possible suspects in the earlier tragedy. Lo's writing allows invested readers to find subtle clues and put their own detective skills to the test.

Perhaps the one thing that gave me pause was the shift in narrative perspective at the half-way point. And while I understand the reason, I'm not entirely certain of the need to shift from first to third rather than writing the entire piece in one POV. That being said, the inclusion of the transcripts versus the first-person account from the first half of the book does allow readers to look for discrepancies. So while it is a more personal issue for me, I can see why it was done, at least to some extent.

The novel features a diverse and well-rounded cast of characters and a plot that is both exciting and horrifying, and which shows how one bad situation can really bring out the worst in people. I applaud Lo's imagination and her ability to portray characters that are not entirely "good" nor entirely "bad." I am also thrilled to see a solid story featuring queer girls who do not need to come out or fight against the forces of prejudice so often at the centre of LGBT fiction.

Recommended

(NOTE: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out Oct. 17, 2017)

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