Nominated as a young adult novel, COOPER BARTHOLOMEW IS DEAD is one that's readable for that age group and those of us for whom "young" is but a vague memory.
Whilst there is a death at the centre of this book, in many ways it is less of a crime mystery than one about the mysterious, and quite scary things that confront many of us when we are young. To be fair though, the reasons for Cooper Bartholomew's death aren't glaringly obvious from the start, although some informed speculation is available to the reader at various points throughout the narrative.
Where this book really excels, however, is in the way it portrays young adult lives. The complications of love, friendships, loyalty, competition and peer pressure are eternal themes but here they are given a strong sense of currency. As the old problems of human nature and behaviour are combined with the current day realities of drugs, haves and have nots, and a sense of lost and confused young people, this story treads ground that is both realistic, and more importantly, possibly helpful. Not just for younger readers but maybe for we older types, struggling to understand (remember) what it is like at that time of our lives.
By not dodging the worst possible outcome, the death of a kind, loved, decent young man, whilst other less likeable characters survive, COOPER BARTHOLOMEW isn't playing safe and happy. It's supposed to be uncomfortable reading at times - drugs, alcohol and misbehaving young people is a reality these days, and not everything pans out as happy ever after. To balance that out there are redemptions. The lost and confused get their acts together. Young love shattered by death, does eventually find an alternative reality, and the future looks a little less bleak. Except of course for Cooper Bartholomew, who most definitely didn't deserve to die. But then a lot of young people who are innocent victims, or those that have made some mistakes can end up paying a very high price.