Monday 30 May 2011

Cold Light, Jenn Ashworth

jenn-ashworth-cold-lightTen years ago, fourteen-year-old Chloe and her older boyfriend Carl drowned in what seemed to be a suicide pact between young lovers thwarted by meddlesome adults. The tragedy came at the end of a time when their northern town was terrorised by a spree of crime, and after the mysterious disappearance of the main suspect. Ten years on, Chloe’s friends Lola and Emma are still troubled by what had happened, and a grisly discover at a memorial service, prompts the girls – now young women – to reassess what had happened to their friend.

The main events of Cold Light take place in the late 1990s, and Jenn Ashworth captured perfectly what it was like to be a teenager at that time, taking my right back to the nostalgia – or not! – of my early high school days. Although we don’t notice the world changing much at the time, I was surprised to see how different the late ‘90s and early ‘00s feel compared with today, in the details of Lola typing up her father’s project on her school computer, of mobile phones being a novelty and shoplifting from Woolworths.

The novel is a gritty picture of poisonous teen friendship and loss of innocence. Although too explicit for a Young Adult novel, it is far from being out of the realms of teen conversation and behaviour. The girls act older than they ought, confident to the point of arrogance in their own maturity, but ultimately out of their depth. I vividly remembered the cruelty of so-called friends, the conflict between fitting in and being true to ones self, and the horrible feelings of being ugly, hideous, greasy and a no-hoper.

Cold Light also explores the role of the media in piecing together the “truth” in a mystery with many gaps in what is known. We see the local media stirring sensation, subtly influencing people’s beliefs until theories become facts, and the story of Chloe and Carl becomes a Romeo and Juliet tragedy that everybody wants a piece of.

And then, with a subtle twist, you are forced to re-examine what you think you know. Along with the standard thriller plot, in which facts slowly emerge, one detail turns the story on its head. We knew all along what was going on – but then we look at it from another angle and it becomes much more sinister. Cold Light is a gloomy book, but despite this an excellent, atmospheric thriller and a fascinating examination of the dark side of being caught between childhood and adulthood.

I received Cold Light  from the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton

You may also enjoy:

Sugar Rush – Julie Burchill
Hold Still – Nina LaCour
Eve Green – Susan Fletcher

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