Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
That's the official finding, that's what everyone believes. Cooper's girlfriend, Libby, has her doubts. They'd been happy, in love. Why would he take his own life?
As Libby searches for answers, and probes more deeply into what really happened the day Cooper died, she and her friends unravel a web of deception and betrayal. Are those friends - and enemies - what they seem? Who is hiding a dangerous secret? And will the truth set them all free?
Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead features a lot of things I love in fiction: multiple narrators! morally suspect characters! mysterious deaths! people who are not as they seem! events told in non-chronological order! I was very much looking forward to reading it after having read Beautiful Malice, Rebecca James' debut. (I've also had a lot of people recommend Sweet Damage, published last year. So that's on the to-read list.)
Rebecca James writes really terrific psychological suspense, and Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead is no exception. I think it has more nuance and depth than Beautiful Malice - while in her debut she depicts a manipulative psychopath brilliantly, no-one is truly evil in Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead which makes it feel more authentic, more like it's happening to people you might know. It's told from four perspectives - Cooper's (pre-death, clearly), his girlfriend Libby's, his best friend Sebastian and his ex-girlfriend Claire - so we get an opportunity to see events from various points of view. Sebastian and Claire are both unsympathetic (and incredibly suspicious), but why they're so awful is realistically explored. We jump between 'Then' - the events leading to Cooper's death, which focuses on his growing relationship with Libby - and 'Now' - the effects of his death on Libby, Claire and Sebastian. Having the story told from multiple perspectives adds a certain three-dimensional quality to the world of the novel, and allows for all the central players to be well-developed and the dynamics between them conveyed beautifully.
The central characters are university-aged, so I don't know if it strictly fits the definition of YA. I'd recommend it to both older YA readers and adult readers who enjoy YA and/or psychological suspense. In terms of content: Everybody is drinking, all the time! It feels like almost every scene. There's also quite a bit of drug use (speed and cocaine) which is not really deeply explored but gives you a sense of the social culture of the 'cool kids' in this town. If these kids were real people I'd be concerned about their livers. There's sex scenes, and a death (spoiler!). It's not hugely different to a lot of YA. Even in Beautiful Malice, though the characters were high school students they had a huge amount of freedom and behaved like uni students.
I loved the twist (I guessed it a lot earlier than it was revealed, but that's probably because I watch a lot of Poirot and Miss Marple and I'm an investigative genius), though of course the greatest twist of all would have been that Cooper Bartholomew was not actually dead. Despite Cooper being dead from the outset, he's a very likeable character. Potentially there could be a sequel: Cooper Bartholomew Is Not Actually Dead And He's Living Happily Ever After With Libby. I'd read it! If you like mysteries, page-turners, gritty teen dramas and/or romance, you'll like this.
Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead on the publisher's website
My interview with Rebecca James
Labels: book reviews