Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Ice House

Sherwood, Monica. The Ice House
November 16th 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

For six months, there has been a worldwide freeze, covering even the warmest places with ice and snow. It's so bad where Louisa is that she and her younger brother Will have to do remote schooling. Their grandmother has died, and their mother is not dealing well with her death, especially with the ongoing isolation. She's given up her glass blowing studio, hasn't created any art at all, and is even selling all of her pieces. Luke, with whom she used to be better friends, lives in her apartment building. When his father is gravely injured when an ice laden tree falls on him, the two end up spending a lot more time together. His father recovers, but does not regain most of his memory. This is hard on Louisa and her family as well, since the fathers were high school friends and were in a band together, and Luke's father has lost his interest in music. Louisa is involved in a Maker group at her school, which has had to meet remotely, and her two best friends, who were in the group because of her, no longer seem to be interested. When there is a Maker challenge to solve a problem created by the Freeze, Louisa and Luke take up a building challenge and construct a house out of ice and snow in their backyard. When school resumes in person, Louisa has to deal with seeing her friends again, and is angry when they tease her about Luke being her boyfriend. He's her friend, and they've taken comfort from each other during a difficult time. Once the Freeze seems to be abating, will there really be any getting back to "normal"?
Strengths: What a very interesting novel about the pandemic that has nothing whatsoever to do with the pandemic! A world covered in ice is a chilling proposition (sorry!), and the descriptions of isolation, remote schooling, and realigned friendships is very accurate. The father's injury and long recuperation is a great reimagining of a fight with COVID. Will and Louisa have some skirmishes that I am sure will seem very familiar to young readers who spent way too much time at home with siblings! I enjoyed seeing Louisa and Luke working on the ice house. This is an interesting treatment of the complications of the COVID pandemic, reframing the circumstances of being isolated by creating the Freeze, but keeping the emotions. Pair this with Burt's prescient Cleo Porter and the Body Electric!
Weaknesses: There's some magical realism in the ice house, where Louisa and Luke see visions of the future on the ceiling. I wasn't quite sure what caused this or where the story was going with it; Louisa's mother doesn't see these visions.
What I really think: The blurb likens this to When You Reach Me, The Thing About Jellyfish, and Bridge to Terabithia, and I'm not understanding those links at all, other than the fact that all of those titles are a bit slower paced and introspective.  Purchasing this for historical purposes, and will be able to get children to read this as a dystopian novel, although it might take a tiny bit of handselling because it's hard to explain and the cover, while lovely, doesn't shed a lot of light on the story. 

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