Teen Volunteer Review: Last Night at the Telegraph Club

As part of our teen volunteer program, teens can submit book reviews, read-alikes lists, YA-inspired playlists and more! Download the registration form for details.

Today's volunteer review by Tejen is of Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a beautifully crafted story of a Chinese American girl in 1950s San Francisco who discovers her sexuality while navigating the city’s gay scene. The main character, Lily, is the eldest child in her family, and her world revolves around her community. Even her school and the activities she does are all based in Chinatown. That is, until she becomes friends with a girl in her class named Kathleen or ‘Kath’, as she prefers to be called. They strike up a friendship due to Kath discovering a newspaper clipping that had fallen out of Lily’s bag that was advertising a drag king at a local nightclub. Kath mentions that she’s been the the Telegraph Club two times, and the two agree to sneak out together and go.

Lily is conflicted about her sexuality for most of the book, unsure of why she has an interest in a drag king or a pulp novel about two lesbians in a sorority together. Lily is spectacularly human in the way she’s written. She’s not outrageous or in your face like most YA heroines are, she’s studious and devoted to her family, yet she’s torn between having what she desires in life and what her family expects from her. She’s portrayed as a sweet, sensitive girl who may have thrived in the modern era, but was unfortunately born in a time period where queer people were barely acknowledged in the mainstream culture, much less queer people of colour.

The book seamlessly blends Chinese, San Franciscan, and gay culture together, and gives you a vivid and colourful look into what Lily is experiencing as the book goes on. You can tell how much love and care was put into writing this book, which makes reading it even more amazing.