Dive into an intriguing story of complicated teen romance and small town mystery with Malinda Lo’s A Line in the Dark.
About ‘A Line in the Dark’ and Malinda Lo
Malinda Lo has been crafting unique works of YA fiction since 2009, when she released Ash, a well-received “lesbian retelling of Cinderella.” A Line in the Dark is her first YA novel in four years.
A Line in the Dark follows Jessica Wong, who is undoubtedly the kind of girl who fades into the background. She sees everything, but nobody seems to see her. Even her best friend, Angie, can’t see that Jess is in love with her! Jess is okay with that, until Angie falls for Margot and everything starts to fall apart.
As Jess is thrown into a new world of boarding schools and wild parties with her best friend, she just can’t seem to like Margot. All personal biases aside, of course. As tensions grow higher, people say and do things that they never thought possible.
When themes of friendship, desire, betrayal, and loyalty become amplified by murder, A Line in the Dark really hits its stride. Love triangles and frenemies are complicated enough, but when lives are on the line in the already delightfully dark world of A Line in the Dark, you’ll find yourself changing from intrigued to insatiable.
A Line in the Dark will be released on Tuesday, October 17. Read the first chapter here and order the book at any of the outlets below.
Exclusive ‘A Line in the Dark’ Chapter 1 reveal
The air conditioner at the creamery if going full blast but it doesn’t make much of a dent in the sticky heat. Every time Angie opens the freezer case to scoop another cone I want to duck my head inside to cool off. She’s been opening the case a lot today. It’s the first Friday after Labor Day, and the shop is full of students from West Bedford High. When Angie has a break between customers, she glances at me, where I’m sitting on a stool in the corner. There’s a little counter back there where I’ve propped up my history textbook, pretending to study.
“You bored, Jess?” Angie asks. “You don’t have to stay, you know. It’s so busy I can’t really—”
She’s called away by another customer’s order. She grabs a cone from the upside-down stack near the waffle maker, pulls the ice-cream scoop out of its milky water bath, and leans into the freezer. She’s wearing cutoffs. They’re not too short when she’s standing, but when she bends over, they slide up so that her butt is barely covered. She straightens up with the cone in her left hand while she shapes the ice cream into a perfect ball with the scoop. Her nails are hot pink today; I was with her when she bought the color at the CVS down the street. As she checks the cone to make sure it’s good to go, she bites her lower lip—not a lot, just a slight pinch beneath her front teeth. She does this every time she makes a cone. Then she shakes her hair back, and because it’s in a ponytail, it bobs as she moves toward the cash register.
When the transaction is finished, she turns back to me. Nobody else is in line right now. “Like I said, you don’t have to hang out with me today,” she says apologetically. “I’m sure as soon as Brooke lets out we’ll get another rush. I can meet you later if you want.”
She wasn’t supposed to work today. We were supposed to go to the movies tonight. Normally Angie works Saturdays for a full shift, but her boss asked her to fill in on Friday too. I think Angie’s more bummed about missing the movie than I am. I don’t mind hanging out here with her. I do it all the time on Saturdays.
“I’m fine,” I say to Angie. “I’d rather be here than babysitting my sister.”
She looks worried. “Are you sure?” She always seems concerned that I’d rather be somewhere else.
“Do you even need to ask? You know Jamie. I’d be doing makeovers all night. No thanks.”
She cracks a grin. “Next time she gives you a makeover, call me, okay? I wanna see it.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” I say, shaking my head. Jaime’s eleven, and the last time I let her put makeup on me I was washing glitter out of my eyes for days.
She gets a gleam in her eye. “Hey, I know what you need!”
She bounces back to the ice-cream case. “We got a new flavor in.” She takes one of the small neon-green tasting spoons and scrapes up a bite. She hides the spoon behind herself as shecomes back to me. “Close your eyes,” she orders. “And open your mouth.”
A little shiver hits me deep in my gut. Nervously, I joke, “What if I’m allergic to that? What is it?”
“You’re not allergic. It’s a surprise.” She takes a step toward me. “Now close your eyes.”
It feels so vulnerable to close my eyes and open my mouth without knowing what’s coming. I trust Angie, but my eyelids tremble as I sense her approaching. My tongue is heavy on my lower lip. I worry that I’m about to drool, and then I smell Angie’s jasmine shampoo in a soft cloud of air against my face, and I stop breathing. The spoon grazes my tongue. I shut my mouth, and my lips brush against her fingertip. It startles me so much that I open my eyes and scoot back off the stool, the spoon jerking free from her hand. My face floods with heat while the ice cream melts in my mouth and it’s chocolate, rich and sweet, with a grainy chunk of peanut butter embedded inside, and finally, a swirl of caramel with an unexpected salty bite.
Angie’s cheeks are a little pink. “Chocolate caramel peanut chunk,” she says. Her hand—the one with the finger I accidentally kissed—hangs in midair.
I’m suddenly conscious of the fact that the neon-green spoon is still in my mouth and I pull it out, embarrassed. “It’s good,” I say, but she immediately makes a face, dismissing what I said.
“You don’t like it.” She hooks her thumb in the front pocket of her shorts.
“I like it,” I insist.
She shakes her head. “I know you, Jess. You don’t like it. You want the usual instead?” She turns her back to me and goes to the freezer case, grabbing a paper cup on the way.
I lick my lips and I wonder if I can taste her fingertip. “Sure, okay.” I’m grateful that neither of us can look at each other while she bends into the case, scooping out some mint chocolate chip for me. By the time she has carefully packed the scoop into the cup, I’ve settled back onto my stool, book re-propped in place, pretending like nothing happened.
She hands me my ice cream as the Creamery’s front door opens, the bell jingling. It’s a group of Pearson Brooke students. They’re not in uniforms or anything—Brooke doesn’t have uniforms—but they all exude a we-are-the-shit aura by the way they occupy a space. They seem to expand, legs sprawling and backpacks bulging open, requiring twice as much room as anyone else.
Pearson Brooke is a boarding school, so during the summer they don’t come to the Creamery. During the summer, the Creamery is full of families with small children who smile warmly at Angie while she makes them kid-size cones or root beer floats, who apologize when they accidentally bump into other customers waiting in line, who stuff dollars into the tip jar. After Labor Day, the Brooke students start returning, and late afternoons in September are especially crowded. Unlike the summer families, Peebs don’t apologize, and they generally treat Angie in two ways: she’s either invisible or a piece of ass. And they don’t tip well.
Some of the West Bed students eye the Peebs as if they’re a rival gang encroaching on their territory, but in reality it’s the other way around. The Creamery is in East Bedford, and we are the interlopers. Some of us might give them the stink eye, but while we do that we pull our chairs closer together, lean our heads in, lower our voices. We contract. Soon, all of the West Bed people Angie and I know will pack up and disappear, heading back to where we belong, and the Peebs will exhale even more deeply, toss their cell phones carelessly onto the tables, demand free cups of water—with ice—and the bathroom key.
Angie has gone back to work. I eat my free mint chocolate chip as she serves one Peeb after the other. One of the guys checks her out while he waits in line, but he hides it pretty well by simultaneously texting on his phone. Sometimes guys leer at her openly over the counter, as if they believe their googly eyes and panting tongues will turn her on, but she always pretends like she doesn’t know what they’re doing and asks if they want to add any toppings to their ice cream. They always have enough money for that.
I finish my ice cream and get up to throw the cup and spoon in the trash under the cash register. As I return to my seat, I see one of the Brooke girls in line whisper to her friend in a near parody of secret-passing: one hand cupped over the other girl’s ear, a conspiratorial excitement lighting up their eyes. I slide back onto the stool and lean against the wall, opening my history book on my knee so it looks like I’m reading. My gaze is turned down to the text, but I don’t see the words. I’m watching the two whispering white girls. I want to know their secret. The one who did the whispering has long dark hair cut in layers like a model’s. It catches the light as she moves, pulls the silky length of it over one shoulder, tucks a lock behind her ear. She’s pretty; everyone would say so. She’s the kind of girl who turns heads. Her friend, the one who heard her secret, is also pretty but in a more average way. She’s blond, with her hair drawn back in a tight ponytail, and as the line moves and they approach the cash register, the light sparkles off her earrings. I wonder if they’re diamonds.
They’re up next. The blonde orders a strawberry cone—one scoop—and then takes her cone with her to find a table, leaving her friend behind. The brunette leans against the counter to give Angie her order. I can’t hear it over the background music and people talking, and it looks like Angie can’t hear it either because she has to lean in to catch what the brunette says. Her hair hangs down in a rippling sheet between them as she repeats her order, gives Angie a megawatt smile. Angie laughs, warm and throaty, and some instinct within me twitches like a warning. Then Angie steps back and grabs the ice-cream scoop.
The brunette watches Angie working, and I watch the brunette. She’s wearing white shorts and a black tank top, and she has a fine silver chain around her neck, the pendant hidden in her cleavage. Angie takes a glass sundae cup down from the wall and fills it with two scoops—one chocolate, one vanilla—and drizzles on hot fudge. As Angie bends down to grab the whipped cream canister, the brunette’s gaze flickers behind Angie to me. For a second I meet her gaze, frozen by surprise. The corner of her mouth turns up slightly, and then she looks back at Angie and I look down at my textbook. The words swim. I feel self-conscious, as if someone caught me in the locker room half dressed.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Angie drop a cherry on top of the sundae. I see her hand on the glass, passing it across the counter to the brunette. Their fingers brush. Angie rings up the order, and the brunette casually leans her hip against the counter as she holds out a credit card. For a second she doesn’t let go of it, and she and Angie have a tiny game of tug-of-war as the girl says something that makes Angie giggle. As Angie takes the card and turns away to run it, the brunette takes a bag of maple sugar candies from the basket next to the cash register and drops it into her shoulder bag. The candies are marked $4.99, but when Angie returns with the receipt, the girl doesn’t say anything about them.
I’m halfway off my stool, about to tell Angie, but the girl has already taken her sundae and left. I watch her saunter toward her friend at a round table in the corner, and whatever I was going to say dies in my throat. I almost admire the girl’s nerve. Angie moves on to the next customer, and I subside back onto the stool. Even if I’d said something, I’m sure the girl would’ve called me a liar.
Angie bends into the freezer case again, oblivious to the theft that just occurred. Her bare legs are creamy under the shop lights. She always describes them as pasty, but they’re not pasty; they’re smooth and supple. The skin on the backs of her upper thighs looks especially soft, like milk. My face warms up, and I lower my gaze, but I can still see Angie’s ankles, the swell of her calves. The vulnerable spot behind her knees where she’s ticklish, the snug fit of her cutoffs over her butt. The frayed white edge of the cloth casts a slim shadow over the tops of her thighs, like an invitation to what lies beneath.