As readers, occasionally we want one of those narratives that can be consumed in just one or two sittings, providing a fully-rounded experience with minimal time investment. But those books should never be confused with being simple or light. Take for example, Cold by Mariko Tamaki – it is a Young Adult novel clocking in at just 230 pages and yet the themes and moral quandaries presented will resonate with readers of all ages, providing much to ponder long after the final page is turned.
Structured as a dual, alternating narrative, Cold features two main characters who are each unique and distinct, while also complimenting and counter-balancing each other. Georgia lives with her parents and older brother and attends an all-girls school where she feels like an outsider, not only because of her own insecurities as a queer teen, but also because her mother has used her life as plots for the children’s books she writes. Todd Mayer attends the same all-boys school where Georgia’s brother is enrolled. He too is dealing with his burgeoning sexuality and is the teacher’s pet because of his good grades. Oh, and he’s also dead!
Found naked and frozen in the local park, Todd narrates his sections as he floats above the action in the afterlife. He is able to watch and listen as the detectives go about the business of solving his murder. Meanwhile, Georgia is concerned because she remembers seeing Todd somewhere where he shouldn’t have been.
Mariko Tamaki uses the cold as an over-arching theme throughout the novel. Between the cold winter weather and the cold attitudes towards Todd’s death, the narrative is packed with references to the chill that surrounds everything – and everyone. Tamaki is most well-known for her work in the graphic novel field and that background serves her well here for a story that is so quickly told, with word pictures replacing the artists drawings; she knows what needs to be highlighted and what can remain obscured where the reader must ruminate on it to fully flesh out the narrative in their minds.
As the clues come together, readers will begin to see how the various threads intertwine. Readers watch as stereotypes are employed to make assumptions that could not be further from the truth. This shattering of stereotypes is the most successful part of the novel and will be appreciated by readers who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Ultimately, the resolution is completely believable and heartbreaking in how the events unfolded. Readers will find themselves pondering how they would have handled being in similar circumstances to those presented in Cold, especially when at an age where emotions are running wild and rational decision-making often takes a backseat.
Disclaimer: A finished retail copy of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.