Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Book Review: Freeze Frame

Freeze Frame by Heidi Ayarbe (Grades 9+).

Something happened that morning in the shed and if Kyle could only remember what it was, things might be okay. Jason is dead. There was a gun. But though Kyle can remember the scenes before and after the shooting, he can't remember what, exactly, happened to Jason. Guilt consumes him as he deals with the aftermath of the incident and, with the help of some new friends, deals with his feelings and starts to heal.

I found Freeze Frame to be absolutely gripping. Kyle's a cinema aficionado and he sees the incident like scenes in a movie. He keeps trying to put them together, to remember the scene that his mind can't quite grasp. As he writes and rewrites the scene, trying to capture it, he eventually starts to remember what happened on that tragic morning.

Throughout the book you get references to Kyle's passion for film. He often envisions scenes as famous directors would direct them. The story's told through Kyle's point of view, but you see how the incident affects other members of the community as well. Jason's little brother is getting bullied at school and Kyle feels duty-bound to protect him. Kyle's sister is ostracized because she's related to "the murderer". All of these subplots come together to paint a full picture of a town deeply affected by this tragedy.

Kyle's put into therapy, but it's his growing relationship with the school librarian that helps him the most. Mr. Cordoba allows Kyle to eat lunch in the library when his peers shun him. He suggests books for Kyle to read and Kyle suggests movies for Mr. Cordoba to watch. Mr. Cordoba becomes a friend to Kyle just when he needs friends the most. This friendship was one of my favorite things about the book. Although Mr. Cordoba is a friend to Kyle, he's still an authority figure and someone Kyle can look up to.

I thought the plot lagged a tiny bit in the middle, but the beginning and the end had me racing through the pages. The reader (and Kyle himself) has no idea if Kyle killed Jason on purpose, if it was an accident, or if something completely different happened. I'd recommend this title to teens who like thrillers and mysteries, maybe fans of books like Jodi Piccoult's 19 Minutes.

Although the story quite definitely centers around an Issue, this didn't feel like an Issue Book to me. Throughout the book you learn things about Kyle's friendship with Jason and his relationships with the people around him. As Kyle comes to grips with what happened, he also gets to know himself better and starts to find his place in the world.

Check out Heidi Ayarbe's website where she talks about writing Freeze Frame. Read another review at Reader Views Kids and don't miss this conversation with Heidi Ayarbe.