GUEST WRITER MATTHEW FLANAGAN RECOMMENDS A SCATTER OF LIGHT BY MALINDA LO
Malinda Lo’s A Scatter of Light is a quintessential coming of age novel about identity, sexuality, and self-discovery. Lo introduces us to Aria Tang West, a young woman whose plans for the future are cruelly disrupted when intimate photos of her are distributed online. Her ideal summer plans now ruined, Aria heads to California to spend the summer with her grandmother. It is this diversion that exposes Aria to the ideas, relationships, and experiences that will truly define who she is, and who she is becoming.
The core tension in A Scatter of Light is between Aria’s perceived identity and her real identity. Anyone who has learned to appreciate how much growth is born from disruptions, disappointments, and failures will appreciate how this tension plays out. Aria comes from an affluent family, is preparing to attend MIT, and considers herself heterosexual. However, in California she develops a strong bond with her artist grandmother, forms friendships with working class young adults, and (most importantly) falls in love with Steph. These relationships alter how Aria understands her identity, but none more than her connection with Steph. This connection allows Aria to accept who she really is and who she could become.
Anyone who enjoyed Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club will appreciate the issues covered in A Scatter of Light and the explicit connections between both stories. More than a celebration of sexual identity, A Scatter of Light is a bittersweet reminder that our identity is a product of our positive and negative experiences and Lo provides a reflective journey that reminds us that self-discovery and acceptance are often the result of things going wrong.