Keesha's House

( 8 )

Overview

An unforgettable narrative collage told in poems

Keesha has found a safe place to live, and other kids gravitate to her house when they just can’t make it on their own. They are Stephie – pregnant, trying to make the right decisions for herself and those she cares about; Jason – Stephie’s boyfriend, torn between his responsibility to Stephie and the baby and the promise of a college basketball career; Dontay – in foster care while his parents are in prison, feeling unwanted both...

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Overview

An unforgettable narrative collage told in poems

Keesha has found a safe place to live, and other kids gravitate to her house when they just can’t make it on their own. They are Stephie – pregnant, trying to make the right decisions for herself and those she cares about; Jason – Stephie’s boyfriend, torn between his responsibility to Stephie and the baby and the promise of a college basketball career; Dontay – in foster care while his parents are in prison, feeling unwanted both inside and outside the system; Carmen – arrested on a DUI charge, waiting in a juvenile detention center for a judge to hear her case; Harris – disowned by his father after disclosing that he’s gay, living in his car, and taking care of himself; Katie – angry at her mother’s loyalty to an abusive stepfather, losing herself in long hours of work and school.

Stretching the boundaries of traditional poetic forms – sestinas and sonnets – Helen Frost’s extraordinary debut novel for young adults weaves together the stories of these seven teenagers as they courageously struggle to hold their lives together and overcome their difficulties.

 

Keesha's House is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Seven teens facing such problems as pregnancy, closeted homosexuality, and abuse each describe in poetic forms what caused them to leave home and where they found home again.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Frost has taken the poem-story to a new level with well-crafted sestinas and sonnets, leading readers into the souls and psyches of her teen protagonists . . . engaging.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review

 

“Spare, eloquent, and elegantly concise.”—VOYA

 

“This moving first novel tells the story in a series of dramatic monologues that are personal, poetic, and immediate.”—Booklist

 

“Impressive.”—Kirkus Reviews

“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.” —Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
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. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Keesha's house with its blue door is really Joe's-a haven for lost and unwanted teens in trouble, offering shelter, safety, and sober comfort when the loving home for which one wishes just is not happening. Compelling first-person accounts by and about seven bewildered teens grip the reader. Using the traditional poetic forms of sestine and sonnet-whose rules are largely followed but occasionally broken with careful intent and fully explained at the end-Frost's debut young adult novel succeeds beyond this English teacher's imagination. Sentences wrapping from one stanza into the next draw readers through stories that embrace all the uncertainty and fear of teen life when adults' failures force the teens into early maturity. Told in eight sections, their stories touch on issues of race, class, and residence; encompass pregnancy, responsibility, addiction, homosexuality, abuse, neglect, abandonment, and delinquency; and still leave room for the voices of peripheral adults. With personal problems galore, these teenagers still find ways to reach out and help others in need. Spare, eloquent, and elegantly concise, Frost's novel will reach reluctant readers as well as those drawn to Go Ask Alice or work by Walter Dean Myers, Nancy Garden, Carolyn Coman, or Ann M. Martin. Public, private, or correctional educators and librarians should put this must-read on their shelves. Already an accomplished poet and prolific children's nonfiction author, Frost has found another genre that suits her well. VOYA Codes: 5Q 5P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 128p,
— Cynthia Winfield
KLIATT
A new addition to the poetry novel genre, Keesha's House is composed of sonnets and sestinas in both traditional and creative structures. Frost uses these forms to introduce us to the teens who congregate in and around a safe haven, a house owned by a man named Joe who "knows the value" of having a place to stay when your own home has become toxic. Keesha stays there, escaping her drunk, abusive father. Dontay finds his way there when his foster family turns him out. Katie sleeps in a basement room with a lock on the door, safe from the stepfather who doesn't respect boundaries. She brings Harris to the house after finding out he's been living in his car, alienated from his parents because of his homosexuality. Stephie stops in briefly while she tries to imagine her life after her baby arrives. We also meet Carmen, who is in a juvenile detention center waiting for a DUI hearing. We feel Jason's struggle between a college basketball scholarship and life with Stephie and their baby. And we witness Keesha's baby brother Tobias falling into a deadly trap. Alternating voices in six "verses" and two "refrains" weave together stories that depict the harsh reality of teenage life. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 116p.,
— Michele Winship
Children's Literature
Although sestinas and sonnets, usually bring to mind romantic writings from the far past, they prove an equally effective format for this poignant contemporary book. Ms. Frost uses the poetic discipline to allow seven alienated teens and people involved in their lives to tell their unembroidered stories concisely and effectively. First we learn of their problems: Stephie and Jason face an unwelcome pregnancy. Dontay, whose parents are in prison, feels unwanted and misunderstood in foster care. Carmen has a drinking problem that brings her to juvenile detention. Harris's father throws him out of the house after he tells his parents heis gay. Katie is on her own because her mother sides with an abusive husband who sneaks into Katie's room late at night. Each one gravitates to Keesha's house as a refuge from parents or authorities who just don't understand. Each grows and learns. In the final chapter each is hopeful for the future. Ms. Frost says the characters sound very real, because the situations she writes about are based on what she has heard from thousands of young people who have shared the stories of their lives with her. She is a published poet and has written many nonfiction books. This is her first novel. I hope it won't be her last. 2003, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus and Giroux,
— Janet Crane Barley
KLIATT - Michele Winship
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2003: A new addition to the poetry novel genre, Keesha's House is composed of sonnets and sestinas in both traditional and creative structures. Frost uses these forms to introduce us to the teens who congregate in and around a safe haven, a house owned by a man named Joe who "knows the value" of having a place to stay when your own home has become toxic. Keesha stays there, escaping her drunk, abusive father. Dontay finds his way there when his foster family turns him out. Katie sleeps in a basement room with a lock on the door, safe from the stepfather who doesn't respect boundaries. She brings Harris to the house after finding out he's been living in his car, alienated from his parents because of his homosexuality. Stephie stops in briefly while she tries to imagine her life after her baby arrives. We also meet Carmen, who is in a juvenile detention center waiting for a DUI hearing. We feel Jason's struggle between a college basketball scholarship and life with Stephie and their baby, and we witness Keesha's baby brother Tobias falling into a deadly trap. Alternating voices in six "verses" and two "refrains" weave together stories that depict the harsh reality of teenage life.
From The Critics
Stephie is pregnant; Jason is the father and an all-star on the basketball court. Dontay's parents live in prison while he remains in foster care, and Carmen waits to be released from juvenile detention. Harris finds himself abandoned after telling his father he is gay. Katie leaves home to escape an abusive stepfather. And Keesha, after leaving her drug-abusing father in search of safety, has found a place of refuge the others turn to in times of need. These seven individuals take turns sharing their thoughts and the issues weighing on their hearts with every turn of the page. Frost uses the sestina and the sonnet forms of poetry to speak to readers through each characters' voice. The rhythmic quality and easy flow of the poetic forms allow the reader to feel the life in these characters in a powerful way. In Keesha's House, Frost uncovers hard, deep struggles facing teenagers today with an encouraged sense of hope and a desire for a better tomorrow. 2003, Frances Foster Books, 128 pp., Ages young adult.
—Kristine Johnson
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Jason states it best: "-It looks to me like the kids at Keesha's house are wearing/lives designed for people twice their age." When they can't go home, this is where they come. Poignant poems tell their stories. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sestinas and sonnets carry the storyline in Frost's multi-voiced story of teens struggling to find their way in the world. While playing somewhat with the structure required, Frost underplays her virtuosity to let readers focus on the characters and their plight. Seven teen voices are heard in describing their individual need to find a secure home and in two sections the voices of various adults round out the narrative. Stephie and her boyfriend Jason struggle with a pregnancy that seems sure to blight their futures. Keesha has found Joe's house and made it her refuge, offering hope to Katie and, in turn, the others. Katie's stepfather is trying to abuse her and her mother is unwilling or unable to protect her. Carmen is trying to help Dontay, who hates his new foster home, when her drinking lands her in jail. Staying at the home of their out-of-control father, Keesha's brother Tobias sounds the wake-up call without speaking a word in the poems. His fate is a catalyst that draws the others gradually together for support. In a surprisingly rigid format, the poems manage to seem spontaneous and still carry the plot easily. With a number of threads to follow, no one character is at the center, but there is great satisfaction in seeing the narratives gradually mesh as the isolation recedes and support is given. Impressive. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312641276
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 167,828
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

HELEN FROST is the author of many award-winning books for children and young adults, including Diamond Willow, winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Award, The Braid, Crossing Stones, and Hidden, available from FSG in May 2011. She is the recipient of a 2009-2010 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry. She lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 11, 2012

    Keesha's House is a book is about teens who are in trouble. In t

    Keesha's House is a book is about teens who are in trouble. In the book it is in a few people perspective, in all have different problems. Keesha is a girl who lives in a house where troubled teens live in to get stable to leave on their own with out parents. Keesha trys to help all the kids who are troubled. Not all of them go their and everyone in the story ends up being happy.
    The book was really good. At some parts it gets boring but it get good in some parts. It is really easy to read because it is in verse form. I recomend this book to alot of people. Mostly people who like fast reads and or books that are in verse.

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    Helen Frost is a wonderful author. Her book, "Keesha's House" is a wonderful novel. In this novel it is a story of teens that have a problem at home and go to this house and become a family of their own. These teens feel more comfortable in this house where they know others are going through things and will not judge them like others. I recommend you read this story, so you will not judge others but treat everyone with respect. This is written in a poetic form which I really liked and hope others will to.

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  • Posted January 8, 2011

    horrible

    so stupid book doesnt make sense because its in poems and it makes no sense

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2006

    An enjoyable short read

    Now, I am not one to enjoy reading poetry, but I read this entire book in less than one day, and I found it to be highly enjoyable. The only problem is I think it was too short, like there was no real talk about how everybody lived their lives at the house. It was just like BAM, BAM, BAM, the end. I would still reccomend it though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2006

    Keesha's House review

    Keesha¿s House, written by Helen Frost, explains real life situations in a creative way. Frost describes the rough lives six teenagers who feel like they have don¿t have anywhere to go. The house is owned by a man named Joe. Joe, himself, had a rough childhood, and knows what it is like to have nowhere to go. This is why he decides to let any one stay in his house, for any amount of time they need. ¿ I can give them space¿and space is time¿ (Frost 35). The title of the book is referring to a woman, who lives at Joe¿s house, named Keesha. Keesha is the person who lets people know, there is a place for them to go, and they will be safe. ¿..he lets us stay here and he doesn¿t ask too many questions¿ (Frost 22). This helps people decide to stay at the house, because they know, they can come live there for free, without having to explain themselves. The book was written in a way I have not seen before. It was written with a sense of poetry. Each person in the story had their own page, and their feelings were expressed within these pages. I think this was a different way of writing a book, and I, personally, thought it was confusing. Not only were there six teenagers telling their own separate stories, but Keesha told her story, Joe told his, and occasionally there were the feelings of parents and teachers. ¿ Questions about Joe-Keesha¿ (Frost 22). ¿I can do it-Dontay¿ (Frost 24). Each person had two pages, and then the story switches. I read to get caught up in a book, I think this book was too hard to concentrate on and remember exactly what was happening with each person. However, I think the individual stories of the people and how they were connected by Keesha¿s house was very interesting. I would recommend the book because it teaches readers, that there is a place to go, and to never give up.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2005

    love it!!!!

    this book is great. it is the the best book ever!!! make sure to read it!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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