Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Genre: Realistic Contemporary (some young adult content)
I’m sitting on my couch, watching the local news. There’s Chloe’s parents, the mayor, the hangers on, all grouped round the pond for the ceremony. It’s ten years since Chloe and Carl drowned, and they’ve finally chosen a memorial-a stupid summerhouse. The mayor has a spade decked out in pink and white ribbon, and he’s started to dig.
You can tell from their faces that something has gone wrong. But I’m the one who knows straightaway that the mayor has found a body. And I know who it is.
This is the tale of two fourteen-year-old girls, best friends, and one terrible summer when lies, secrets, jealousy, and perversion ended in tragedy more tangled and evil than a tight-knit community can possibly believe.
For me, the only thing worse than reading a book I want to chuck against a wall is reading one I can’t seem to put down because I’m waiting for something, anything to happen, the entire time feeling like the author has put one over on me. This is a book I’m not ever going to get. I must lack the emotional depth, some obscure college degree or maybe the cultural background to fully appreciate what’s going on because obviously, there’s something happening. I just don’t get it.
Cold Light flips back and forth between the present and past as Laura revisits the events surrounding the death of her best friend Chloe ten years earlier. As ground is being broken for a memorial on the tenth anniversary of her suicide, another body is found and it’s all broadcast on live television. Emma, the third in Chloe and Laura’s friendship, has kept reluctant, hostile contact with Laura and as the news coverage continues through the night, they sit drinking and sharing painful secrets about Chloe and the things that happened the year they were fourteen.
In just a handful of months, their small English town was terrorized by a flasher-slash-molester going after teenage girls; a young man with Down’s Syndrome went missing; Chloe and her much older boyfriend Carl started a relationship with serious consequences and Laura and Chloe had a massive blowout followed by a tentative truce. Nothing can top what happened that winter though: Chloe and Carl, forbidden to see each other, committed suicide by drowning themselves in a local lake. A rose is named after Chloe, the town mourns – in her death, she is more beloved than she ever could have been in life, her love story impossibly romantic.
None of the main characters were particularly likable. Chloe is selfish, narcissistic, a liar and manipulative while cultivating an image of a pretty blonde angel. She chose Laura and Emma as friends because she could control them and play them off of each other and they did exactly that. Laura is needy, whiny, moody and obsessively jealous over Chloe. Emma is a coarse sycophant who’s obviously been damaged and can’t wait to take Laura’s spot with Chloe. Carl, Chloe’s much older boyfriend is a jerk to everyone, violent and obviously a perv, going after a fourteen-year-old. The descriptions about how everyone smelled were enough to make me queasy. Sweat, cigarettes, wet towels, dirty hair, dirty underwear, greasy lipstick – on and on. Nobody ever smelled good or had good skin. By the end I think I understood why I wasn’t supposed to like anyone, that there was a point to be made about all of us having a degree and depth of ugliness you can’t see on the surface. But then again, maybe I just didn’t get it.
As disturbing, uneasy and like an outsider this book made me feel, I still couldn’t put it down, which is why it gets a middling grade instead of a really low one. Each page I turned I kept thinking would be my last, then something would happen and I’d think, “just a few more.” The story has a train wreck quality to it – every encounter these people have with each other, you can almost feel the clock ticking down. When Laura’s with her parents, there’s an air of resigned hopelessness between them all. The reporter on-scene Terry, with his trademark pink shirts, is a grotesque parody of the veneered, shellacked anchorman. The one normal, likable character that I felt any sympathy for was the character whose body was found.
My Summary: I’m a little at a loss about what my final thoughts are. I know it’s possible to hate all the characters but love the book but I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing. The ending threw me off a bit too – it really did emphasize that people aren’t who you think they are. My advice: read the other reviews too and decide based on all the information. I’m still not sure if I just didn’t get it.