Balzer + Bray
Available September 13th
Received at BEA/tour through Teen Book Scene
The moment Leena sees Frost House on the edge of campus, she knows it's the perfect place for her and her three closest friends to live senior year. Though they manage to snag the beautiful dorm for themselves, Leena finds herself with an unexpected addition to their group in the form of Celeste Lazar.
Eccentric artist Celeste broke her foot and therefore needs to live somewhere easy for her to get around, and given that their original fourth roommate is abroad for their first semester, Leena's ground floor room is the perfect solution.
Leena quickly learns that Celeste is as different as everyone says she is, and when things began to break inexplicably and get moved around their room though no one but the two of them go in it, she believes Celeste to be doing it herself for attention. While nursing a crush on Celeste's overprotective but adorable brother David, Leena struggles with Celeste's seemingly deteriorating mental faculties and begins to genuinely wonder if her problems are psychological or supernatural in nature.
Frost is a story we enter into expecting the bitter chill of unease to settle into our bones as we read in a state of prolonged apprehension for the ghosts of the mind or those of Frost House itself to raise pebbles on our skin, but instead we find ourselves waiting a bit in vain. Things progress very slowly for Leena and Celeste, and while this pace gives our minds plenty of time to conjure any number of potential scenarios and outcomes, it does make this a read that is fairly easy to put down and pick back up at a later time. Little events happen here and there to make us question whether Frost House is haunted or if a mind addled by a pill addiction is responsible for everything, yet those little happenings never really turn into anything larger and we lose the compulsion to read faster to discover the truth once it seems things are going to stay pretty even keel.
The characters themselves remain a bit elusive, never fully drawing us into their lives with a strong emotional pull or letting us in deep enough so we feel as though we're an intrinsic, if invisible, addition to their lives. Reading about Leena, Celeste, and David is like seeing them reflected in a carnival house of mirrors–we get to view them from different sides and all angles, but when we reach out to touch them we encounter a smooth, impenetrable barrier that leaves us a little sensory deprived. Ms. Baer's characters are certainly well-constructed and well-written, they just seem to be missing the extra spark that makes us want to chatter to anyone who will listen about how unique and memorable they are.
Overall, Ms. Baer does an impressive job of blurring the line between reality and illusion, keeping us constantly unsure as to whether or not what is happening can actually be believed or if there is perhaps a more rational explanation. Though this story never quite gets our hearts pounding or our muscles vibrating with tension, it's still an interesting read that will surely appeal to readers who favor quieter stories where each person can choose to put stock in their own version of events, interpreting as they will and never fully trusting what their told.