A Scatter of Light

Malinda Lo

A Scatter of Light
Hodder & Stoughton
United Kingdom
11 October 2022

A Scatter of Light

Malinda Lo

A Scatter of Light is a companion novel to the National Book Awards winner and New York Times bestseller Last Night at the Telegraph Club, and is about how the threads of family, inspiration, art, and identity are woven across generations.       

Aria Tang West thought she’d be spending one last summer on Martha’s Vineyard with her friends before starting MIT in the fall, where she intends to study astronomy, like her late grandfather. But after topless photos of her are posted online, she’s abruptly uninvited from her friends’ summer homes.        

Aria’s parents, a writer and opera singer with plans of their own, send Aria to stay with her artist grandmother, Joan West, in Northern California. Although Aria has never been attracted to girls before, she finds herself drawn to Joan’s gardener, Steph Nichols, an aspiring musician a few years older than Aria. The only problem? Steph isn’t single; she lives with her girlfriend, Lisa. But the chemistry between Aria and Steph seems undeniable, and this will be a summer that will turn her world upside down.


Aria Tang West is ready to spend one final summer with her friends in Martha’s Vineyard before starting at MIT in the autumn. But when topless photos of her at a graduation party are posted online, her parents send her off to spend the summer with her grandmother, artist Joan West, in San Francisco.

Aria expects to be lonely and bored, but instead she meets Steph Nicholls, her grandmother’s gardener, and suddenly her summer is full of possibility. Instead of spending the summer going to parties with her high school friends, she’s going to Pride marches, helping her grandmother sort through her grandfather’s old papers, and questioning her own identity.

A Scatter of Light is filled with an aching longing that builds over the course of the novel. Aria doesn’t start out struggling to define herself; she knows she wants to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and study astronomy at MIT, and she’s always assumed she’s straight. But as she spends more time with Steph, the harder it is for Aria to deny how attracted she is to the other girl. There are no happily-ever-afters here – Steph has a long-term girlfriend and Aria is about to start university on the other side of the country – but the beauty of the novel is in the discovery and the heartbreak.

Malinda Lo writes complex characters and situations with an almost magical clarity and simplicity. The novel is set in 2013, during the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the United States; it would be easy to write this book with an air of celebration and lighthearted joy. But the feeling Lo captures is the feeling I remember: a much more realistic one. It is a feeling of uncertainty, upheaval and change. This is truly a gorgeous summer read. For ages 15+.

Jennifer Fraioli is from Readings Emporium

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