Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Keesha's House

by Helen Frost
Farrar, Straus & Giroux | 2004

This middle grade/YA novel written in verse brings to light the struggles of teenagers displaced from their parents and living together in the home of a neighbor who is willing to provide a safe space. The house is technically Joe's, who was taken in by his aunt when he was a teen, but it's become known as "Keesha's House" because she is so good with sussing out who needs what and when.

Stephie is pregnant; Jason, her boyfriend is the star basketball player whose plans are going to be derailed; Carmen has been caught drinking yet again; Harris is gay and his father is less than thrilled; Katie's mother married a man who has less-than-innocent interest in Katie; Dontay has been in a number of foster homes; and Keesha's mother died and her father is an alcoholic and failing at raising her and her brother. Some heavy stuff to all be in the same book, but Frost handles it deftly, softens it appropriately, and the form--poetry--makes it less intense than it sounds.

Awarded a Printz Honor in 2004, this book is lovely. And its author is lovely (I've met her). It is not easy to write a novel in verse that doesn't feel forced, yet Helen Frost does it time and time again (see also Diamond Willow, Crossing Stones and more).

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