Frost by Marianna Baer
Release Date: September 13, 2011
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
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?
I must admit that I was originally excited about this book because it looked like it’d be similar to The Roommate. That sounds strange, but I was in a mood for a creepy, borderline-terrifying book, and I was hoping that Frost would be that book.I had heard mixed reviews of it, so I didn’t end up picking it up until I saw it at my indie bookstore. I do, however, wish that I had decided to read it before Halloween, because it definitely would have set the mood. Also, this book came out on the 13th and there were several books that had more hype coming out that day, so a bit got lost in the other books. This book isn't necessarily floating under the radar, but it hasn't had as much attention as it deserves. It should though, because it has a unique feel.Frost focuses on a house, and the girls that live there. Leena had randomly discovered Frost House in the middle of her junior year, and fell in love with it instantly. A quaint Victorian house with a wrap-around porch, she could just see herself living there with her friends. It sounded perfect for her senior year. Nobody has lived in it for a while.Leena convinced Dean Shepard to convert it from a boys’ dorm to a girls’ dorm, and although the house went through the lottery system, her friends and she ended up with the house. On the first day of senior year, Leena and her friends move in. Kate, Leena’s roommate, had decided to go overseas and spend a semester abroad, so Leena is expecting to get her room to herself. She already has the layout and decoration planned out. She will take the first floor room, while Abby and Viv will take the rooms on the upper floor.What Leena was not expecting was to get a roommate. Celeste hurt her leg over the summer, and the school decided that it’d be easier for Celeste to move around during the first semester if she had a first-floor room. Leena and her friends dislike the idea of Celeste being with them, and they try to change it.When Leena and her friends discover that they are stuck with Celeste, Leena decides to actually try to get along with her. Maybe she can help her out.But as strange things start happening…frames thrown across the room, vases shattered, mysterious injuries…Celeste is convinced that someone in the house wants her out. That there is somebody watching her, hurting her, hating her. The worst part is that soon Leena starts to believe her.But as stranger things keep happening, and Leena has an inexplicable sense that she is in danger, soon it may be too late. She has no idea whether the threat lies with Celeste and her mental instability, within her own thoughts and fears, or in the actual house. Is there anything to fear?In this heart-pounding novel of eerie sounds, paranoia, and suspicion, you won’t be able to stop turning the pages until you reach the end.First of all, let’s start with Leena.Leena seemed pretty normal at first. She was the standard, sensible girl that most expect in these kind of books. It is her fantasy to live in Frost House, after falling in love with it, and she quickly persuades her friends to join her. They can truly be like the family that Leena never had.Her parents are divorced; she considers her friends to be her family. She doesn’t talk to her mom or dad if she can help it. When she is with them, she feels utterly alone. Not to mention that they still look at her with caution, after attempting to commit suicide in eighth grade.Leena pours all her passion, frustration, and helpfulness into a program at her school that allows peers to counsel students who may not want to go to a counselor for advice. She loves the program, and does everything possible to keep it running. She thinks that if she helps others, she may just be helping herself.When Celeste arrives as her roommate, Leena is not thrilled at first. Once she realizes that she can’t change anything, she quickly warms up to the idea.The only thing that she is not warmed up to is Celeste’s constant appetite for drama. She’s convinced that Celeste is doing these things for attention. When Celeste finds her vase broken and accuses Abby of doing it, tensions escalate.But as stranger things keep happening, she can’t help but wonder if Celeste could be right. Suspicions escalate, and Leena doesn't know who to trust.Celeste was one of those eerie and utterly different characters that you run into every once in a while. She seems to always do the wrong things, but it makes everything seem right. She has this way of compelling you that you should take pity on her, and that she should be taken care of.When I first encountered Celeste in this book, I didn’t like her. I thought that she would be withdrawn, but then Leena said that she always created drama when they were partners junior year for a class.Her “unique” creations were certainly different that what you’d expect. She manages to take random, dirty things and create them into works of art. From roaches to nests to anything really, she is immersed in her art and works so hard to maintain a constant creepy interest with them.While if this had happened with any other character in any other book, I would have thought that the author was trying to hard to make the roommate creepy. Strange people are always the ones that are suspect in books. However, with this book, Celeste worked. I don’t know what Marianna Baer did to make it work, but it just did.The supporting characters were brilliant. Viv’s quiet understanding and wish to make everything work, Abby’s stubbornness and firecracker nature, and David’s somewhat creepy habits. I’m going to sum up a bit of David later too, because for some parts he is more like a main character, while in others he acts more like a supporting character.Abby was the one who Leena was worried about overreacting about Celeste. Abby wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, which was both an advantage and disadvantage in the current situation. She and Celeste occasionally got into spats, and she could be tempestuous sometimes. It did help to have some honesty in the house, because you could see how it balanced against the doubts and irrational fears of Leena and Celeste.Abby did some things that I didn't like, but they backed up her firecracker personality. She didn't make any moves to empathize with anybody.She didn't like anybody saying that she and Celeste had similar personalities, but it was very true. They both let their emotions rule their decisions, and they seemed almost exactly alike. The only difference seemed to be that Abby was lucky and Celeste wasn't.There is usually an element of mental health in thrillers like these, and there was. David and Celeste's father had mental problems, and so there was the constant question of whether or not they were crazy. They both seemed to be ashamed of their father, perhaps even a bit scared, but they wanted to love him, and they wanted to understand him.This was even more developed throughout the book whenViv wasn’t focused on nearly as much as the other characters. I thought that was a bummer because she was perhaps the most mellow. She just felt like she was there to add depth and support the rest of them. She was a minor character, but she had a calm feel that I liked hearing about.I must admit that it would have been better for me if Marianna had thought to cast some blame on some other characters. She kept it restricted to a few key characters that we kept returning to. We had suspicions about them and about whether they were the ones causing the crazy things in the houses. It was plenty developed though, and the people who she did target all seemed to be equally suspicious. It definitely kept the pages turning for me. I would have liked to see some of the things that happened in the house affecting Abby and Viv more, because it seemed to just be a few little things. Had something like that happened in real life, it probably would have affected more people.The house itself was almost like a character. Not only did we have the whole Victorian-house stereotype of it being haunted, but there was a tenderness to it. Some of Leena’s descriptions would describe it as a little old lady’s house, or charming. There was an ominous undercurrent to everything because there was the constant fear that something was going on that the house was orchestrating.The feeling of this was the best. There was a feeling that came with it like you were being watched, that something was wrong, that there was something more than meets the eye. It's almost a scary feeling too. It feels so real that it's like you're in the story yourself, which could be unsettling because of the nature of this story.It was really developed. Some books don't feel like they've been fleshed out enough, but it was really developed. I really loved how Marianna grabbed small plot details and made them huge in the story sometimes. It let you see a wide spectrum of what everything could be and what could be causing the mysterious things in the house but it wasn't so that you felt overwhelmed. It seemed perfect.The whole wrongness of this story was what made it so alluring. It sucked you in and every page took you deeper. It's definitely darker than your usual story, but it was just thrilling. The writing and the characters made it brilliant.The pace of this was incredible. This is definitely one of the most successful examples in pacing. Everything was electrified, and there were the perfect amounts of action and monologue in every scene. The “story arc” was just brilliant as it progressed. I’m half tempted to go tell my English teacher about it. Marianna Baer has had a lot of training in writing, so natural talent and the seasoned knowledge of a professional really add to this book.I did think that the ending was a little too “convenient” though. I wished that there would have been more of an explanation, because it felt like the author had taken the easy way out. Although I wish that there would have been a bit more depth to the wrap-up because I still had a few (not a lot, but a few) unanswered questions. They weren’t detrimental to the story though, so I still managed to get the impact of it all without the answers.There's a lot going on in this book, but it all ties together, and that's what makes it work. There are so many amazing things about this book: the characters, the writing, the feeling of it all, that it's almost impossible to focus in on what made this book stand out for me. Many of the elements in it were played around with and generally refreshing.If you're ever looking for a creepy, borderline-terrifying book that plays with your mind, look no further. Excellent writing and suspicion mixed in perfectly with the characters, Frost won't leave you alone. It's freaky in the best possible way. This book explores so much but is refreshingly developed. It leaves an impact.Recommended for anybody who loves: The Roommate; Imaginary Girls; creepier books; great writing; etc,.Book club questions to come.