book review: “A Line in the Dark, by Malinda Lo

wow i — did not care for this at all.

the thing is — HYPOTHETICALLY this book should have been right up my alley. an asian american protagonist in a YA thriller with a lesbian love triangle at its heart (where two sides of the triangle are manipulative users of other people, and frankly the third one kind of is, too): all of this is My Jam. and yet….

one thing that got me is that we get a bunch of stuff about how margot is a user and a manipulator and a bully, and then she — behaves pretty decently through the whole book (even the mean things she says about jess being a creepy stalker, like — she’s not wrong, tbh). there’s hints that people are worried about how angie treats jess, and then nothing really comes of it. jess pines to the point of dropping hand grenades into basically every relationship she comes in touch with, but — nothing comes of that/it seems like she’s supposed to be the relatable one all the way through to the end, even though she’s, at least in the confines of the story, kind of the biggest douchebag around?

like — margot’s kind of a jerk, and angie is thoughtless, but jess’s possessiveness over angie, while never actually honestly giving angie the chance to respond, is so thoroughly — unpleasant? is maybe the right word? and margot — well, for one thing, she takes the fall for angie (and for jess! tbh!) rather spectacularly, and — she’s not kind in how she talks about jess, but from her point of view, she has plenty of reasons to be worried about angie, and angie’s friendship with jess, and the fact that angie is miserable for half the book over her friendship with jess

……..and also, let’s talk about that ending scene where margot falsely confesses to murder, actually. i think part of it is because the whole first half of the book is from jess’s pov, but WHY ON EARTH would margot do that? like — no part of her relationship with angie is fleshed out to the point where that was remotely believable. and then after that, angie just — is chill with things? what the heck.

basically: this book was dumb. a better book would have been margot framing jess for the murder, and manipulating angie into staying with her with the threat of letting everyone know who actually pulled the trigger, and jess protesting her innocence while her family doesn’t believe her because she lied. there, that’s way more interesting than this ultimately entirely toothless story about people being generically miserable and useless at each other.

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  1. I liked this book more than you did, I think, but yyyyyyeah Jess is *really* not a likable protagonist, at all? And Margot ends up being way *more* likable by the end, even if it’s still at a level where everyone is just kind of an awful person. It might work better as a TV teen thriller like Pretty Little Liars, or something, because then it could rely on the performances to sell the character relationships a little more

    ……..I also spent the first half mildly confused because some of the aesthetics of the book and the letters left in the woods and the graphic novel jess was working on made me think there was some like. supernatural element going on and I couldn’t tell if it was going to hit at some point lmao

    1. OH SAME i also thought something Spooky was going to crop up, especially with the whole subplot about the comic about kestrel and laney and raven.

      i sort of feel bad for having such a negative reaction — god knows i have loved some truly unlikable narrators before — but like — i guess everyone felt unpleasant in a boring small way, not unpleasant in an over the top gone girl kind of way? and i just couldn’t believe any of the reactions post-murder tbh

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