It was a beautiful, warm summer day, the day Danny died. Suddenly Wren was alone and shattered. In a heartbroken fury, armed with dark incantations and a secret power, Wren decides that what she wants—what she must do—is to bring Danny back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy Wren fell in love with. His touch is icy; his skin, smooth and stiff as marble; his chest, cruelly silent when Wren rests her head against it.
Wren must keep Danny a secret, hiding him away, visiting him at night, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school, and Wren realizes that somehow, inexplicably, he can sense the powers that lie within her—and that he knows what she has done. And now Gabriel wants to help make things right. But Wren alone has to undo what she has wrought—even if it means breaking her heart all over again.
Warnings: Depictions of depression and grief
Cold Kiss is a YA novel about growing up and about grief. It is also, partially, a zombie romance novel. I was mostly interested this book because the author Amy Garvey, earlier in her career, was one of the ghostwriters that wrote for the Animorphs series, which remains to this day one of my favourite series of books of all time. And since I write a blog about weird and unique adult content, I of course had to check out the zombie romance novel by the Animorphs ghostwriter.
The writing in this story is very atmospheric and gripping from page to page. It certainly doesn’t pull any punches whatsoever, and is very mired in the sense of bittersweet and sadness that lingers within the entire thing. It is a story about loss and grief and plunks us into the narrative directly into the midst of Wren’s pain, starting after her boyfriend Danny’s death and misguided reanimation. From here it follows her struggles to figure out what to do about the now undead corpse she must keep secret and hidden from the world, and how to navigate his growing resentment. It’s a very unique idea for a premise and it absolutely does not disappoint in the execution.
This is an incredibly emotional story. It is full of very engrossing characters, most especially Wren. Wren’s journey through growing up amidst the trauma of loosing a loved one is compelling and heartrending, and this story is beautiful in its depictions of grief and the awkwardness of the teenage years. It is also however, an extremely depressing read. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it has a lot of emotional resonance, but it does mean that reading it can be a bit of a slog as it is unrelenting in it’s sadness. Props to the author for making me feel many feelings, but it won’t be for everyone as it is a very intensive experience and exploration of some pretty heavy subject matter.
This book has incredibly interesting worldbuilding. The author’s note indicates that the book’s lore is mostly of their own invention, and it is very creative. I really liked how it explores the supernatural and Wren’s abilities as a familial ability. Some of it could certainly have been more deeply explored, and I was left with many questions and postulations about how magic and the supernatural works in this world. In the case of a narrative like this though, I think that the less is more, since everything that is there is meant to facilitate the main story-line about Wren and how she deals with her grief, and how she eventually lets go and moves forward with her life. The exploration of a supernatural element only makes the main themes of the story sharper.
There is one sex scene towards the end of the book, and this is a flashback to Wren and Danny’s first time, well before Danny died. It is a beautifully told scene, and is full of raw emotion and conveys a lovely expression of the experience of first time encounters. This is not at all a pornographic scene, so instead of being overtly explicit it is an emotionally impactful moment and piece of writing, as I would expect from something in a YA novel. It is very tastefully and artfully done, and I really appreciated it.
All together, this was a wonderful book, but I do caution that it can be a bit of a downer of a story. I was riveted to it throughout and was so happy to have read it, and I think that the author very much succeeded in what she set out to write here.
Have you read Cold Kiss? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!