Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Review: Frost by Marianna Baer
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Leena Thomas's senior year is not going as planned. She was supposed to be living with her best friends in the gorgeous Victorian dorm, Frost House -- but now she has an unexpected and unwelcome new roommate in the form of the school's freaky loner, Celeste Lazar. On the bright side, Celeste's cute brother David is hanging around, and he and Leena have more than a little chemistry. But there is something not quite right about the Lazars -- or Frost House itself -- and unfortunately for Leena, help may come too late.
Frost is a deeply chilling and psychologically thrilling read that will suck readers in and turn their world upside down. Leena Thomas seems like the typical American teenager. She has her group of friends and her extracurriculars, she's independent and friendly and ready to start her senior year. However, as the novel progresses, the cracks begin to show. Subtly at first, but increasingly insistent. Her mistakes seem innocent and humanizing, but they are slowly tearing her life apart.
Leena's friends are an eclectic group, and not always the most likable people. I would have liked their friendship to play a larger role in the story -- but at the same time, it's important for the plot that Leena becomes increasingly distant. Nothing is as it should be in Frost House, and nothing is as it seems. Surprisingly, Leena begins to develop a relationship with her unwelcome new roommate Celeste and her brother David. Celeste is beguiling, Leena's opposite in almost every way. She's artsy and eccentric, oblivious to social niceties and pretty self-involved. Yet, it's impossible to hate her when no one can quite understand her. She's an intriguing enigma, and readers will vascillate between frustration, fascination and pity for her haunting and inscrutable character.
The relationship between Leena and David is incredibly well-developed. Instead of meaningless conversation or mere flirtatious banter, the two teens bond over their personal demons -- David's institutionalized father, and Leena's broken home. They have a mutual understanding that connect them on a deeper level than just physical attraction. Yet, as with all other aspects of the novel, something's not quite right. The bizarre bond between David and his sister is disconcerting, and readers are never quite sure what it means. Marianna Baer invites readers to speculate on its true nature, entertaining a whole host of unnerving possibilities.
Baer is a master of the power of suggestion. Even when nothing is happening, readers are on edge and ill-at-ease. Everything just feels off. The reader is left unsettled almost from page one, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's impossible to pinpoint exactly when everything begins to unravel, or to tell the difference between real and imagined. The pacing of this novel is crucial, and pitch perfect. The slow downward spiral is so subtle, readers may not even notice it at first -- but it's there, a slow, steady march toward the abyss. By the time they realize what is happening, it's already too late.
Disclosure: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.
Part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.
Coming soon: Author Interview with Marianna Baer!