Roaring Book Press
Published February 8, 2022
I’m a big fan of Mariko Tamaki’s comic book writing, from This One Summer with her sister Jillian Tamaki, to her original DC YA graphic novels I Am Not Starfire and Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass with Yoshi Yoshitani and Steve Pugh respectively. But before picking up her latest novel, Cold, from the library I hadn’t read any of her prose.
The novel is about Todd Mayer, who the reader immediately learns is dead and most likely murdered, and Georgia, who didn’t know Todd, but can’t stop thinking about his death. Todd’s ghost hangs out, following around the two detectives investigating his death, while Georgia half-heartedly applies what she’s learned from crime shows to look into Todd’s death.
At least one reviewer has criticized Todd’s character because there’s not much to him, but that’s the point. The reader learns that to protect himself from the homophobia at his all-boys private school, Todd had essentially withdrawn from public life at the school as much as possible. He had no friends, no extracurricular activities, and tried to keep the lowest possible profile, in the hopes that he would survive long enough to make it out of that school. The standard reassurance, “It gets better,” falls flat when you realize Todd has no future and that makes his death all the more crushing.
Georgia is a wonderful character, though I think Tamaki could have done more with her. On the one hand, Georgia is dealing with typical teenage girl stuff: friends, crushes, and bullies. That part is great and ties in well with the main part of the novel. On the other hand, Georgia is supposed to be the amateur detective of the novel—I assume, given how often her love of crime shows comes up—but her investigation into Todd’s death is never more than half-hearted and when she does uncover the truth it’s not as a result of any sleuthing.
Though the book is supposed to be a mystery, it’s not a particularly satisfying one. Part of that is because Georgia finding out the truth isn’t the result of her investigation, but it’s also because if you’re paying attention, you should have a pretty good idea of who the murderer is early on. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good book. I loved the way Tamaki addresses homophobia in the novel and I thought Todd and Georgia’s stories were compelling. I just didn’t spend much time wondering whodunnit.