Book Review: Cold by Mariko Tamaki

Title: Cold

Author: Mariko Tamaki

Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction

Number of Pages: 240

Rating: A-

Recommended?: Yes


I’ve read most of Mariko Tamaki’s graphic novels, but this is the first novel by her I’ve read. I think she’s currently a little bit infamous for I Am Not Starfire but I hope that doesn’t deter people from reading her other work. She has a way of writing about young people and the issues they face that feels very heartfelt and genuine.

Cold is about a boy named Todd whose naked body is discovered in a public park. After his death his spirit observes the people, he left behind and a girl from his community (Georgia) who never knew him becomes interested in the case. Georgia and Todd are both gay and Todd suffered a lot of bullying before his death.

A sympathetic teacher who spent a lot of time with him becomes a suspect and Georgia finds out her brother lied about knowing him. The book is written in alternating viewpoints (Todd in third person, and Georgia in first person.)

Todd is by far the more interesting of the two characters, Georgia is kind of a typical Mariko Tamaki female lead, snarky and generally bitter about her life. Several aspects of the novel and Georgia’s character in particular actually reminded me of Tamaki’s graphic novel Skim.

I liked Georgia okay, but she wasn’t nearly as easy to empathize with as Todd. Throughout the book I felt for him, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages to find out who killed him. Homophobia is a major factor throughout, but you don’t know until the end whether he was killed because he was gay or whether there was another motive.

Todd’s existence as a spirit is somewhat underutilized- it doesn’t really affect anything that happens during the search for his killer- and I felt like the finale should have had more of a visceral emotional impact on Georgia but I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters, so there isn’t anything I’d particularly nitpick. I also appreciate seeing YA books where romance doesn’t play such big a role, which is rare for a genre that forces love into every teenage protagonist’s story.

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