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...moreFrost 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.
Fury alternates between two teens, Emily and Chase, and carefully sketches in the details of their ordinary, every day lives. It is surprisin...more3.5 Stars
Fury alternates between two teens, Emily and Chase, and carefully sketches in the details of their ordinary, every day lives. It is surprising to discover that the mythological beings are not the main characters of this novel -- instead, they hover on the fringe, leaving the focus on the remarkably human and flawed leads. Elizabeth Miles brings her cast to life, making them seem more like people than characters. The inhabitants of Ascension are not extraordinary, and that's what makes them so authentic. They are imperfect and not all that likable -- but that seems to be the point. Emily is naive and shallow, not to mention a terrible friend, and Chase seems petty and insecure. Their off-putting personalities make sense in the context of the novel, yet it also makes it difficult to invest in their fates. Miles' skill at humanizing her characters is impressive, but they would be more rounded with a few admirable traits as well.
Em and Chase are not the most despicable people in town by a long shot, yet they're the unfortunate souls singled out for vengeance. The fact that the avenging girls are not the protagonists adds to their mystique, but it also obscures the method to their madness. The first half of the novel drags, as it's impossible to tell what transgression Chase committed or what punishment Emily is receiving for her own crimes. Crucial backstory isn't introduced until late in the novel, leaving readers feeling confused for an agonizing length of time. Yet, though Emily's story line is clearest at the outset, Chase's plot ends up being the strongest as he moves inexorably toward his fate. Though neither is endearing, Chase has the most complexity -- from his love-and-hate relationship with a childhood friend, to his attempt to rise above his socioeconomic status -- readers will feel sorry for him as his punishment progresses (even if he seems to be determinedly walking into the trap).
The calculating and manipulative powers of their tormentors are made starkly and terrifyingly clear as the novel spirals toward its devastating conclusion. Miles lays a strong groundwork for her mythology, immersing readers in the fear and uncertainty of a trapped animal as Em and Chase's plight snowballs out of their control. Subtly threatening interjections and foreboding language serve to heighten the impending sense of doom. The avenging girls are eerie and ominous, mysterious and elusive -- not to mention a little insane, in an unnervingly manic way. Their utter unpredictability is part of what makes them so chilling. Fury takes an innovative approach to adapting mythology, raising thought-provoking ethical questions rather than romanticizing the supernatural. Though the opening dragged, the latter half of the novel picks up the pace, throwing multiple curve balls at unsuspecting readers and leaving them with more questions than answers about the nature of justice in an unjust world.