Helen Frost, . . FSG/Foster, $16 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-374-40012-5
In her first YA novel, Frost profiles seven teens in trauma, artfully revealed through sestinas and sonnets. With pregnant Stephie's opening lines, she conveys a bittersweet contrast typical of the collection: "My parents still think I'm their little girl./ I don't want them to see me getting bigger,/ bigger every week, almost too big to hide it now." Katie's stepfather tries to molest her, and Harris is thrown out of the house when he reveals that he's gay. Each character ends up at Keesha's house (the house really belongs to an adult named Joe, but teen Keesha, who has her own problems, looks after the arrangements and the kids who wind up there). Some characters simply pass through, while others form a family. The adults in their lives, such as parents, a judge and even Joe, offer other perspectives on the teens' lives. The struggles may be familiar, but Frost makes her characters and their daily lives seem relevant and authentic (in one poem, Katie describes how the smallest wrinkle—a new bus schedule—brings her to tears because she now won't have time to change for work; in another, Dontay dreads being tracked down by his case worker), often using striking imagery ("All my questions are like wind-tossed/ papers in the street," Stephie writes). Making the most of the poetic forms, the author breathes life into these teens and their stories, resulting in a thoughtfully composed and ultimately touching book. Ages 12-up.
Reviewed on: 04/21/2003