Helen Frost interweaves the stories of six teenagers in this novel in poems, and poetry feels like just the right form, for stories that cut deep into the gut. Frost tells Harris's story. We see Harris find a note in his locker reading "Die faggot." We see him get shoved across the cafeteria. We see the assistant principal tell him, "You're too young to make this choice. Just wait. There's lots of pretty girls out there." We see Stephie try to hide her pregnancy from parents who think she's still their little girl. We see Stephie's boyfriend Jason watch his dreams slip away. We see Carmen long for her grandmother from a juvenile detention facility and Dontay struggle with his second-tier status as a foster kid. We see the headline: "Tobias Walker, age fourteen, was found dead Tuesday afternoon."
By the end of Keesha's House it's hard not to look around and try to see deeper into the stories behind any stranger. And it's impossible not to see "the value of a house like this." Not just the house that takes people in when its raining and there's no place else to go, but a book like this, that takes in characters who need their stories told.
Emily Dickinson wrote, "If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire could ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry."
I know Keesha's House is poetry.
[Frost, Helen. Keesha's House. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2003.]