A Line in the Dark
Author: Malinda Lo
Length: 7.5 hours
Narrator: Jennifer Lim
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Original Publication Date: 2017
Genre(s): Young adult, Mystery, Fiction, LGBT
Jess Wong is in love with her best friend Angie, even if she can’t quite admit so to herself, let alone anyone else. But she doesn’t hide it so well, especially when Angie starts dating Margot, who attends the nearby boarding school. Jess immediately dislikes Margot, which causes a serious rift in her friendship with Angie. Jess would do anything for Angie…and would do anything to get Margot out the picture. When tragedy strikes, relationships are tested, and some are never the same again.
I honestly have no idea how to review this book. Truly. I’m shocked I even finished it, to be honest. But even bad audiobooks make the work day go by quicker. After the first half, I was determined to give this a 2-star rating. The end half boosted it to a 2.5-star rating, which isn’t saying much, but still.
The novel starts out in first-person POV from Jess’s perspective. From the book’s synopsis, we learn Jess essentially has a crush on her best friend. What we don’t learn until getting into the book is how absolutely creepy that crush is. Listen: I am a girl who, having never been interested in girls before, suddenly fell in love with her best friend (and now we’re still dating 3 years later, but that’s beside the point), so in a way I understood what Jess was going through. However, as I was slowly realizing my own feelings and coming into a strange, new relationship with someone, never did I feel like I was as creepy as Jess is. Because the first half of the book is in first-person, we get all of Jess’s thoughts, and it was way, way, way too much. For a while, it’s just little hints here and there—Jess thinking about Angie’s legs, the color of her skin, etc.—but slowly becomes a little too much, with Jess masturbating to the thought of Angie, Jess blatantly staring at Angie’s ass, Jess focusing so so so hard any time Angie touches Jess in any way. I understand crushes, but Jess’s crush was very unsettling and seemed way too creepy for me. I just felt uncomfortable listening to it. Other than the creep-factor, the first half of the book was boring. I felt uninterested in all the characters and the plot itself.
The second half, however, changes so drastically, it’s almost like you’re reading an entirely new book. For one, it changes from a simple high school drama to a mystery. It also changes from first-person to third-person, a change I assume is meant to show us all the characters from a limited perspective, since it’s now a mystery. This change also sets us up to believe Jess is not-so-innocent since we can’t hear her thoughts anymore. Unfortunately, switching the POV is a huge risk. I don’t recall experiencing this and liking it. It just feels weird to me. The second half of this novel is also much more interesting than the first half, though I still wouldn’t say I was enjoying the story. More like…tolerating it? Since I didn’t necessarily care for any of the characters, I wasn’t as invested in the story as I could have been. The good news is, I started to like Jess a tiny bit more: 1. Since I couldn’t hear her creepy thoughts anymore, and 2. She became much more of a sympathetic character. All of these combined helped boost my rating, but not enough for me to say, yes, I enjoyed this book.
I didn’t realize before reading this novel, but I’ve actually read Lo’s work before. In high school, I read her Adaptation duology, which I remember enjoying, at least enough to give both books a 3-star rating. But that was in high school. I have higher expectations now. Yes, I understand YA books are written for and about teenagers, but I also believe they should be written for an even older audience to also enjoy. A Line in the Dark didn’t do that for me. The writing was just meh. I have to say, though, that Lo is good with dialogue. She is pretty good at imitating teenagers, so I’ll give her credit for that. She also included a vast variety of characters from different backgrounds and with different sexual orientations, which I applaud her for. I am happy diversity is becoming a popular trend.
The cover is what enticed me to read the book in the first place, and I still enjoy the cover. Unfortunately, what’s inside the cover needs to be good, too, and it wasn’t quite good enough for me. So, in the end, I’m glad I listened to the audiobook, because I have a feeling I may have given up on it in physical form.