Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Review: Frost by Marianna Baer

SUMMARY: Leena Thomas’s senior year at boarding school begins with a shock: Frost House, her cozy dorm of close friends, has been assigned an unexpected roommate: confrontational, eccentric Celeste Lazar. But while Leena’s anxiety about a threat to her sanctuary proves valid, it becomes less and less clear whether the threat lies with her new roommate, within Leena’s own mind, or within the very nature of Frost House itself. Mysterious happenings in the dorm, an intense triangle between Leena, Celeste, and Celeste’s brother, and the reawakening of childhood fears, all push Leena to take increasingly desperate measures to feel safe. Frost is the story of a haunting. As to whether the demons are supernatural or psychological . . . well, which answer would let you sleep at night?


The Short Version:
Creepy and luring, Frost masterfully blends mystery with a haunting element, while still keeping the overall feeling realistic and relatable. Leena is a well done central character, making some less than stellar decisions on the way and enduring, for her, some huge struggles, in a way that will engage readers. With strong writing, a well paced story, and a focused cast of characters, Frost most definitely straddles the line between supernatural and contemporary in a bold way.

The Extended Version:
Leena is intelligent and personable, comfortable in going to boarding school despite the few areas of baggage she carries with her. With huge hopes for a fantastic senior year, Leena falters only a little when Celeste is thrown her way and suddenly not only her new housemate, but roommate. Though the personality clash is clear from the start, Leena does try to welcome Celeste, even if the girl continually tests her and throws her off-kilter. As things really get going, Leena goes through a fantastic overall course of development. Though she is frustrating at times, and some of the things she does are a little hard to understand, she has a strong motivation and mentality to her that overshadows and still keeps the reader rooting for her.

Celeste is, in a lot of ways, off her rocker. Manipulative, harboring a rather weird view of some things, and seeming paranoid even outside of the Frost House, it’s easy to see why Leena and her two other housemates and friends would find it hard to welcome this girl. Despite this, Celeste’s spitfire ways, ability to almost always hold her chin up, and take care of herself even stuck in crutches, will make her stand out to readers and soften them towards her. Her relationship with her brother is an interesting one, and the differences in how they act with each other and everyone else is another strong element of this book.

The rest of the cast is well built, and though some of the characters are frustrating in their reactions, Leena holds enough of an ability to put herself into their shoes to understand and in turn, pass that to the reader. With a strong sense of camaraderie at the start that fizzles as the plot goes on for a few different people, the relationships and interactions Leena experiences are a great part of the book that goes far to drive the overall plot.

Despite the boarding school setting, this book is one that most readers should be able to relate to. From the well described school and class settings to the characters and interactions, Baer has pulled in a very realistic and well grounded background to this book that shines. The plot is, at its core, simple and centered around how Leena reacts to and deals with everything that is starting to be dumped on her. Baer, however, takes things much deeper and expands that, having plenty of internal and external elements that help keep things moving, grab the reader, and keep the pages turning. The pacing is well done, having bold moments of character development in the lulls of the overall plot and haunting aspect of the book.

The writing is fantastic, strong in voice and fluid. With some great descriptions, a lonely and creepy air that lingers on every page, and never staying stuck in Leena’s head too long, Bear’s writing talents are showcased and amplified. Building both the setting and the characters, the writing pulls the reader in and never falters or knocks them out of the book or Leena’s head.

The ending of this one is, overall, very well done, and definitely the kind that will make readers take pause and sit for several moments in thought. Though a few of the character reactions were a little too over the top, and one specific one came off as a little more story convenience than anything, Baer overall has built some fantastic, relatable, and realistic characters that make her story shine. Playing heavily into the haunted house concept, without being gaudy in any way, Frost is most definitely a stellar book that will leave readers with a chill.

Source: ARC received from author/publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  September 13, 2011

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