Sunday, September 18, 2011

When Your House Holds You Hostage

Ghost stories have been forgotten about in the world of zombies, cyborgs and other creepy creepers. But ghost stories are the ones we can't forget. Ever go into a creepy old farmhouse? A friend of mine grew up in one and I am still creeped out in that house! Why, you ask? Ghosts of course! And those people who tell you the house is just "settling" are clearly delusional. Talk about creepy! Frost by Marianna Baer delivers the quintessential ghost story with boarding school twist.

Leena knows her final year at Barcroft is going to be amazing because she and her two friends got into Frost House- the tiny dorm for four students that can finally be the home Leena hasn't had since her parents got divorced. Unfortunately, their plans of a cozy home together go awry when Celeste Lazar is moved in. She broke her leg and needed a first floor apartment, but she is weird. The other girls tolerate her presence, but Leena has to share a room with her. Fortunately, Celeste comes with a hunky brother, David, who is around the dorm a lot. But with strange Celeste comes some strange activities. Things on Celeste's side of the room are turning up broken, thrown, or destroyed. She is always cold in the room and turns up with strange bruises all over her body.

At first, Leena thinks Celeste is acting strange because she is mad at her for dating David. Then she learns David and Celeste's father is mentally ill, and Leena starts to think Celeste might be hurting herself. When Celeste admits to Leena she thinks the house is trying to kill her, Leena is convinced Celeste suffers from the same paranoid delusions her father does. What she hasn't considered, though, is what is happening to her in that house as well. She might not be showing up with bruises and burns out of nowhere, but the house is somehow controlling her. Can they get out of Frost house before someone gets hurt?

In terms of creepy, I would give this story a 4 out of 10. It wasn't "hide in the shower with a bat" kind of scary, but rather of the mysterious and creepy sort. That doesn't mean it wasn't interesting, though. When Leena doubts Celeste's story, you aren't sure which to believe. Celeste can certainly seem unstable, and might be hurting herself, but things in the house just don't add up. It took me a while to find out where exactly the book was going. I have to say the ending wasn't entirely satisfactory, but it wasn't unpleasant either. It felt a little rushed, especially after so much leading up to the actual finale.

The book is appropriate for strong middle school readers through high school students who might prefer to read more mild mannered stories. The mental illness angle creates plenty of room for discussion. If you check out the book and want to know more, Baer is going to be at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY next month. Check out the details on Oblong's website for the Hudson Valley YA Society for the appearance with 2 other authors! There is nothing cooler than meeting the authors of your favorite books (well, not for me at least!).

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