On a cold January morning, the ghost of Todd Mayer watches as his naked, frozen body is discovered in a park by someone passing by. He listens as two police detectives question his family and private-school classmates about his whereabouts the night before. They don’t question his friends, though, because Todd doesn’t have any friends. Instead, the detectives focus their investigation on one of Todd’s male teachers, who took an unusual interest in him.
While Todd silently observes the aftermath of his death, a girl named Georgia, whose brother was one of Todd’s classmates, is dealing with issues of her own. Carrie, one of the most popular students at their all-girls’ school, has recently decided she and Georgia should be friends, but Georgia’s feelings about Carrie are decidedly more complicated than just friendship. Then Georgia realizes she might know something about what happened to Todd on the night he died, setting Georgia and Todd on a collision course with the truth.
Author Mariko Tamaki is best known for This One Summer, a graphic novel she co-authored with her cousin Jillian Tamaki that received Caldecott and Printz Honors. In Cold she creates a fast-paced mystery reminiscent of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.
The novel alternates between Todd and Georgia, with Todd’s chapters in third person and Georgia’s in first. Tamaki gives Todd’s sections a fitting sense of detachment: “Todd didn’t want to see his dead body anymore. Not because it upset him. It just didn’t interest him anymore. Like a plate of cold, half-eaten food on the table after dinner.” Meanwhile, Georgia’s chapters brim with emotion as her feelings for Carrie conflict with her insecurities. Throughout, Tamaki nails the dialogue, peppering it with the perfect amount of slang and teenage witticisms.
Sharp and authentic, Cold doesn’t just take its title from the chill of a wintry day but also from the cruelty and isolation of adolescence. Readers who love intense, suspenseful storytelling will devour it in one sitting.