My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was all that I wanted it to be – and more. I fell in love with the characters, and even though I knew that it all ended horribly, I still got swept up in the story of Cooper and Libby.
As the title suggests, this is the story of Cooper Bartholomew’s untimely death. It is divided into ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ post and prior to Cooper’s death. It is also told from the perspectives of four narrators, Cooper, his girlfriend Libby, his best friend Sebastian, and his ex Claire.
In ‘Then’ we follow the development of Libby and Cooper’s relationship, and see the divide it was causing between Cooper and his old friends. Honestly, Cooper and Libby’s courtship is the best thing about this book. It is so real. Slow and true with hesitations from friends and parents, as they all come to grips with this unexpected pairing. Cooper is just like the sweetest guy in the world, and Libby knows how wonderful he is. Reading them falling in love was so bittersweet, because it beautifully captured that slow build-up and wonder of a new relationship, but at the same time, you know that it’s going to end so badly for Libby.
The ‘Now’ segments deal with the aftermath of Cooper’s death, as everyone struggles in comprehension. Libby particularly doesn’t accept the official finding of suicide, and sets out to uncover the truth. These sections were hard to read because Libby’s emotions are so raw. However, the build up to the big secrets was a little lacking. I wasn’t especially shocked by the revelations discovered (and I’m usually quite an oblivious reader!) and I thought some of Libby’s conjecture about what could have happened to Cooper was more gripping than what was eventually revealed as to have occurred on that fatal night.
However, this was still a page-turning and emotional Australian addition to the New Adult genre. James has once again crafted such relatable characters, everyone knows a Cooper, a Claire… Even for the characters that you aren’t supposed to like, I still really ended up hoping they got their lives sorted out. It is important to note that this is indeed a NA novel, rather than a YA one. It deals with a lot of heavier themes, such as suicide, infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse, and family drama. Overall though, a really great book. Even without the central plot, this book explores what that odd time in life your early twenties is, especially in small town Australia.