4 of 5 stars
I’ve been excited about this book since I heard about it sometime last year. Malinda Lo has been one of my heroes since her debut novel and I’ve loved all her books since. As the release date approached, I tried to steer clear of reviews because I wanted to form my opinion without any influences, but I heard some of my favorite bookish people refer to it as a disappointment. By the time I was finally able to read it, I was worried this book would let me down.
For me, that was not the case. I loved this book, from the gorgeous cover art to the last page. In this review I will discuss (spoiler-free) why I liked it and why it might not (and does not) work for some other people.
Pros first. I loved the characters. It seemed like Angie would be the typical choice for the narrator of this story, and I love the decision to stick primarily to Jess’s point of view. Each character has their own motivations; the “protagonist” is not wholly good and the “antagonist” is not wholly bad. I didn’t see the ending coming until the second to last chapter; by that point I was hoping that was the direction it would go and would have been disappointed if it had ended in another way. I enjoyed the story-within-a-story format of Jess’s comic book and how it related to Jess’s own life. Most importantly, I appreciated that there were so many queer characters that they weren’t tokenized, that they could make mistakes and be morally grey without representing queer folks as a whole, and that they could be people instead of just queer.
Now, cons. There is a POV switch halfway through the book that some readers disliked. The book was billed as a murder mystery and a psychological thriller, and though both elements are present in the book they were not portrayed in the way some readers expected. The pacing was too slow for some readers. Finally, some people simply didn’t like Jess. None of these things bothered me and I actually enjoyed some of these elements (e.g., the pacing and the POV switch), but your mileage may vary.
Altogether, I thought this was an entertaining and interesting read that is a good addition to both Lo’s collection and to queer YA fiction as a whole.