While planning for her senior year at boarding school, Leena uses her connections with the Dean to have Frost House converted into a girls’ dormitory for the year. Leena’s interest in Frost House is more than casual; she’s obsessed with the place, and with architecture in general. She plans to live in the charming little house with a few of her closest friends and have a final year of high school they’ll never forget. Plans change when an eccentric student, Celeste, becomes Leena’s roommate due to a broken leg that forces her to be relocated to a first floor room. Celeste’s presence isn’t all bad, though, since her hot brother David is around all the time to help take care of his sister.
However, not long after moving into Frost House, Celese and Leena both begin to note strange disturbances. Celeste feels watched all the time. Her stuff is moved around the room, pictures seemingly thrown off walls and items pulled out of the closet. She develops mysterious bruises all over her body.
Leena has a hard time keeping her social and academic affairs in order. Her other friends don’t like Celeste, and feel that Leena sides with her new roommate too often. Leena had planned a moratorium on dating for the semester, but finds that hard to hold on to with David in the picture. Even her relationship with David is complicated, as Leena struggles to stay loyal to both him and his sister and finds that doing so is nearly impossible without betraying one of the two. She turns to prescription medication to calm her anxiety, and spends increasing amounts of time “meditating” in the closet, talking to a carved wooden owl, and sometimes wondering if something is answering back.
Both girls have some suspicions about the house, but manage to rationalize each others’ bizarre actions. After all, Celeste’s family has a history of mental illness, and Leena is probably popping a few too many pills. Maybe nothing strange is going on in Frost House at all. Maybe both girls are just losing their minds.
Marianna Baer’s debut is a creeptastic combination of paranormal and psychological thriller. Leena provides a vivid description of the semester’s events, but is an unreliable narrator given her own slipping grasp of reality. Baer leaves enough ambiguity to let the reader decide what is really going on in Frost House. Frost‘s writing is refreshing; Baer consistently takes cliches and turns them on their heads, creating language that sticks with you long after you turn the last page.
Frost isn’t the sort of book that has to jump out at you and yell “Boo!” with “Thriller” playing in the background. It is the kind of book that hides in the shadows of your closet, quietly rearranging your things, waiting until everything is perfectly quiet and still to reach out and grab you at just the right moment. The creepiness builds slowly and subtly, the gap between the real and unreal widening throughout the text.
If you choose to read Frost at night, do so at your own risk. You just might start to wonder what’s really lurking inside your house. And in your own head.