Friday, June 15, 2012

Keesha's House

In my search for lists of novels in verse, the name Helen Frost continued to pop up as an author to watch. My library had a copy of Keesha's House, a Printz Honor book. Through poetry, it tells the stories of seven high school students who end up with no place to go due to pregnancy, substance abuse, homosexuality, and family issues. They somehow all manage to find their way to a house run by a man named Joe, who keeps it open to kids who don't have a proper home. Fourteen-year-old Keesha is the linchpin, inviting them to come and stay. In the words of one character, "It looks to me like the kids at Keesha's house are wearing lives designed for people twice their age."

Of all the novels in verse I've read, Keesha's House stays truest  to its poetic roots. The poems are either sestinas or sonnets, and their density is welcome after pages that are too light on actual content. Best of all, none of the rhymes felt forced. At times, it felt more like reading paragraphs than poetry, which will be a relief to adolescent readers who are intimidated by the genre.

I enjoyed Keesha's House, although wouldn't consider it a "must read". Perhaps it is the sheer number of narrators (we also get poems from the perspectives of key adults in the teens' lives), but I didn't get to know any of the characters well enough to get attached. Although the book is named for her, Keesha is the character whom I connected with the least. I appreciate that it is grittier and tackles more urban issues than many of the novels in verse I've read. For that reason, I would keep it on my bookshelf for students to browse.

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