________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007



Nicole Luiken.
Winnipeg, MB: Great Plains Publications, 2007.
158 pp., pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-894283-72-4.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Linda Wood.

***½ /4


Kathy thought for a minute, then shook her head. "No, I’m not sure. I remember reading somewhere that a small bomb exploded near a nuclear bomb might set off a sympathetic explosion, Ka-boom. And if Iqaluit Airbase is vaporized, chances are NORAD will assume it’s North Korea’s doing. They’ll retaliate and the other side will do the same. China might get pulled in. More bombs. Nuclear war. Radiation. Death. Nuclear winter. The next ice age."

The stranger’s hair was silver, in sharp contrast to his eyes, which seemed to soak up the light. He watched Johnny like as a hawk might watch his prey. Kathy had the stomach-churning sensation of being caught up in a powerful current...

The stranger named Frost has plans for Johnny Van Der Zee, a Grade 12 student who attends Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut located in Canada’s North. Johnny’s love for the sport of hockey has made him famous in the area as #19 and star center for his team. He even has dreams of going "South" to play in the major leagues and his incessant practicing borders on the obsessive.

     But, every time Johnny gets too close to someone, they get hurt. From the mysterious car accident that claimed the lives of his parents when he was young to an encounter with a rogue polar bear, a freak snowmobile wreck and the attack on a friend’s cherished pet, Frost seems to exert control over every aspect of Johnny’s life. Johnny’s only hold on the present is through his tenuous relationships with his brother Evan, Uncle Dan, Aunt Pat and the fun he has with his fellow teammates.

     Kathy O’Dwyer is an army brat in physical training to become a fighter pilot. She is new to Iqaluit, moved there by her army father and pottery-making mother. She just starts Grade 11 when she is swept off her feet by Johnny who proposes to her the moment he meets her. When she refuses, he asks her out instead. When she accepts the date, she automatically becomes popular with everyone...everyone that is except Cheryl, Johnny’s former girlfriend.

     Cheryl has lost three members of her immediate family, including father, sister and mother, and her intense connection to Johnny is stronger due to their mutual loss. Her aunt and grandfather, known in the area for raising champion sled dogs, are the only family members she has left. Her grandfather loves Cheryl and shows it by patiently teaching her the old Inuit customs and stories.

     As Johnny fights Frost’s growing influence, Frost becomes more brazen in his threats, lashing out at the teenager’s relatives, friends, teammates and even soldiers on Iqaluit Airbase. He isn’t the only one to see Frost. Cheryl and Kathy begin to see him more often in connection with the ongoing strange events that seem to plague Johnny.

     Johnny fears what Frost might do next. He begins to isolate himself from others in the hope that he can prevent them from becoming Frost’s next target. He also finds himself compelled to purchase parts to build a bomb. Against his better judgment and beliefs, Johnny has become Frost’s minion.

     Frost’s power grows as he builds an immense glacier 400 kilometres closer than it should be, complete with the wrecked fuselage of a missing Russian jet, its armed missile still intact. When Frost guides Johnny, carrying a backpack full of explosives, to the glacier, it is a race against time for Kathy and Cheryl to stop him before it’s too late.

     With escalating hostilities between North and South Korea looming, the Armed Forces Base on full alert and jets already scrambled in the air plus the weather changing for the worse, Kathy and Cheryl must trust each other, in spite of their differences, to help Johnny overcome his dependency on Frost and defeat the supernatural villain. On the longest night of the year when Frost’s power is at its peak, can the three friends, using their wits and bond of friendship, defeat Frost, the elements he has at his command and the threat of nuclear war?

     Nicole Luiken’s new novel, Frost, is a fast-paced read blending military technology, the supernatural and romance. Her use of weather fluctuations as demarcations for chapters, both in Celsius and Fahrenheit, is an interesting way to keep track of Frost’s manipulations not only of the weather but also on the humans intruding in his domain.

     Luiken’s knack for atmosphere, building both dread and suspense, is akin to author Peter Straub’s technique in his classic, Ghost Story. As with Straub’s feminine haunt, Eva Galli, is it possible that Frost can manifest himself without Johnny’s belief in him? Could he exist at all without Johnny? Winter is a palpable presence in both novels as is the revenge on humanity theme. The author covers mature subject matter including death and suicide hence the necessity for the older teen rating.

     Luiken published two of her novels before graduating from high school so her connection relating to teenage angst is apparent in her latest speculative fiction novel. She lives with her husband and children in Edmonton, AB. Luiken is the author both of adult and YA fiction and won the 2004 Golden Eagle Children’s Choice Award for her previous novel, Violet Eyes.

Highly Recommended.

Linda Wood is a journalist (articles & reviews) and college tutor in Saskatoon, SK.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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