Goodreads synopsis: 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?
Marianna Baer’s Frostis a creepy Gothic tale with shades of The Yellow Wallpaper and The Haunting of Hill House. Frost House, an old Victorian nestled in the woods of Barcroft Academy is both a main character and the primary setting for the novel. Leena, our narrator, feels an immediate connection to the house as it seems to call to her as she wanders upon it. Leena arranges for the dorm to become the residence of her and her three best friends for their senior year at Barcroft; however, things do not go as planned when Celeste moves in. A series of strange events, from pictures flying off the walls to feelings of being watched, convince Celeste that Frost House is haunted. In the meantime, the tension in the house drives Leena further and further from her old friends and forces her into a position of having to choose either to believe Celeste’s ghost stories or accept a much scarier truth about her new roommate. Adding to the complications is Leena’s budding romance with Celeste’s brother, David.
The characters in Frostare not all likeable, but they are all well-crafted. Celeste is eccentric and egocentric; Leena is prone to rash decisions and is hiding a dark secret; Abby is a drama queen. David is a mysterious character and I wavered back and forth between cheering for the romance and wanting to scream for Leena to run far, far away. By creating characters who are far from perfect, Baer is able to keep readers on their toes. You won’t know who to trust or what to believe.
Baer’s writing is creepy and atmospheric and there are plenty of elements in this book that had me looking over my shoulder. I will certainly never look at my closets the same way again! The first half of the book had me on the edge of my seat, guessing at what was going to happen next. Part psychological thriller, part ghost story, Frost is a well-constructed tale of intrigue. Brilliantly subtle, many times the creep factor is added by simple elements, the rustling of the wind, noises coming from an unidentified source, odd smells, and the like. But then, the house becomes more forceful, Celeste begins to have vivid nightmares and gets bruises in the night when she can feel someone (or something) trying to hurt her.
Despite all the build-up and suspense, I did feel let down by the ending. Baer set up such a strong story and there were so many different ways it could have all been brought together, I felt the ending was too tidy and contrived.
Overall, Frost is a greatly enjoyable novel and is definitely worth a read, I’m looking forward to seeing what Marianna Baer has in store for her readers.