Last Updated on January 13, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1117
Ash series (2009–11)
Adaptation series (2012–13)
A Line in the Dark (2017)
Malinda Lo is the award-winning author of several science-fiction and fantasy novels for young adults. Perhaps best known for her novel Ash (2009), a retelling of the Cinderella story, and its companion novel, Huntress (2011), she is also the author of the Adaptation series, the standalone novel A Line in the Dark (2017), and various short stories. Lo is deeply committed to promoting diversity within the young adult genre and is a cofounder of the website Diversity in YA, which publishes book lists, author interviews, and statistics related to that cause.
Born in China in 1974, Lo moved to the United States with her family when she was three years old. She began writing at an early age and published her first poem at the age of twelve with the encouragement of her grandmother Ruth Earnshaw Lo, herself a published writer. Lo also began to write novels, completing three during her teen years. A fan of fantasy literature, she was particularly inspired by novelists such as Robin McKinley and Madeleine L'Engle.
After graduating from Centaurus High School in Lafayette, Colorado, Lo enrolled in Wellesley College, where she majored in economics with the goal of becoming an investment banker. She earned her bachelor's degree from the college in 1996. Following college, Lo worked as an editorial assistant for Ballantine Books for a couple of years. She later went on to earn a master's degree in East Asian studies from Harvard University, where she researched Chinese cookbooks in the United States. She next enrolled in Stanford University to pursue a PhD in cultural and social anthropology but left the university before completing her degree. Her doctoral research concerned the science-fiction television show The X-Files, which she has noted greatly influenced some of her later work. She began a career as a freelance writer after leaving Stanford and in 2002 began writing for the website After Ellen, which was founded by a college friend. Lo served as an entertainment reporter and managing editor of the site, which focuses on lesbian and bisexual popular culture, until leaving to focus on her fiction-writing career in 2008.
Lo published her first novel, Ash, in 2009. A reimagining of the Cinderella story and a young adult coming-of-age tale, the novel was nominated for numerous awards, including the Andre Norton Award for excellence in young adult science-fiction and fantasy and the Lambda Literary Award for best LGBT children's or young adult book. Huntress, a novel set in the same world but featuring different characters, was published in 2011. That April, Lo’s short story “The Fox,” which is set in the same world as the two Ash novels and relates events that take place two years after the end of Huntress, was first published in the online edition of Subterranean magazine. It was also published in the 2012 paperback edition of Huntress.
Lo’ Adaptation series of science-fiction novels comprises Adaptation (2012), its sequel, Inheritance (2013), and a companion novella, Natural Selection (2013). In 2017, Lo published the thriller A Line in the Dark, about a Chinese American teen named Jess Wong who finds that her best friend, Angie Redmond, is falling in love with a wealthy, white, private-school student named Margot Adams, toward whom Jess harbors suspicions and jealousy. In addition to her novels, Lo has written a variety of short stories and nonfiction essays.
Lo has also been an influential voice in the movement toward diversity in young adult literature. In 2011, Lo and Cindy Pon, a fellow young adult author, collaborated to create the website Diversity in YA, which promotes all forms of diverse young adult literature. Since 2012 she has published her analyses of the diversity in the young adult novels featured in the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-sellers lists.
As a writer of fantasy and science-fiction for young adult readers, Lo engages with various works that came before, reshaping elements from such works into something new. Ash, for example, is in many ways a retelling of the traditional Cinderella fairy tale, in which a girl who is mistreated by her cruel stepmother ultimately catches the attention of a handsome prince. However, Lo reinterprets this narrative in her own style, creating a rich world in which the realm of the fairies exists alongside a forested human land inspired by Northern California, where Lo lived for many years. While the novel's protagonist, Aisling, known as Ash, does gain the attention of a prince, she ultimately falls in love with the huntress Kaisa. Her later works likewise reinterpret and reinvent familiar narratives; Adaptation, Lo’s first science-fiction novel, features aliens and government conspiracies somewhat reminiscent of The X-Files. Indeed, Lo has commented in interviews that the novel is in many ways a love letter to that show, which she had studied in depth during her time at Stanford.
Lo is an outspoken proponent of diversity in young adult fiction, and her own work reflects that in many ways. In addition to featuring same-sex relationships, her fantasy novels blend elements of multiple cultures, featuring European, American, and Asian influences. The Adaptation series of science-fiction novels initially seems to set up a love triangle, a plot device that is common in young adult fiction; the popular Twilight and Hunger Games series, for instance, both feature prominent and polarizing love triangles. In Inheritance, however, protagonist Reese resolves her love triangle not by choosing one prospective love interest or the other but by entering into a polyamorous, bisexual relationship, a far less common resolution to that romantic dilemma. In this way, Lo not only provides a fresh take on a genre cliché but also provides a welcome depiction of typically underrepresented identities.
- “Bio.” Malinda Lo. Lo, 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <http://www.malindalo.com/bio>.
- Lo, Malinda, and Cindy Pon, comps. Diversity in YA. Diversity in YA, 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <http://www.diversityinya.com>.
- Lo, Malinda. “One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Malinda Lo.” Interview by Julie Bartel. Hub. Amer. Lib. Assn., 27 June 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2013/06/27/one-thing-leads-to-another-an-interview-with-malinda-lo>.
- Lo, Malinda. “Q & A with Malinda Lo.” Interview by Donna Freitas. Publishers Weekly. PWxyz, 7 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/46762-q-a-with-malinda-lo.html>.
- Review of A Line in the Dark, by Malinda Lo. Kirkus, 21 Aug. 2017, www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/malinda-lo/a-line-in-the-dark/. Accessed 13 Nov. 2019.
- Springen, Karen. “Fall 2009 Flying Starts: Malinda Lo.” Publishers Weekly. PWxyz, 21 Dec. 2009. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/profiles/article/53221-fall-2009-flying-starts-malinda-lo.html>.
- Welsh, Kate Linnea. “How to Make Young Adult Fiction More Diverse.” Atlantic. Atlantic Monthly, 2 June 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/06/how-to-make-young adult-fiction-more-diverse/239795>.