Book Review: Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Lily Hu is known as a “good Chinese girl” in her San Francisco Chinatown community– studious, helpful, loyal. But as 1954 and her senior year sweep past, she discovers new feelings for her old classmate Kath, feelings that are considered unacceptable in her community. Together Lily and Kath discover new love and a new world at a local lesbian hangout, the Telegraph Club.

This is exquisite YA historical fiction with powerful evocations of Chinatown life, 1950s mores, the Communist scare, Chinese immigration challenges, and the underground world of queer life in the 1950s. It’s also just exquisite fiction– superbly plotted and paced, elegantly self-referential, and spooled out with tension and suspense that both YA readers and Adult readers will appreciate. Lily and Kath feel know-able, and even secondary characters are fully-rendered, complex, and lovable. Readers who have a knowledge of San Francisco get an extra reward, as the city is a vivid setting. The novel includes illuminating historical timelines and an author’s note. Audio listeners are in for a treat if they seek out the superb audio narration.

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