Keesha’s House – by Helen Frost
I have a theory that all book—all stories—are, in the deepest sense, about a journey toward home, whether it’s a physical place, a group of people, or just a feeling of peace and belonging. Keesha’s House is very obviously about home and the different ways it can be lost and found.
Told in poetry format, this story follows seven teenagers who all find their way to Keesha’s house, which is owned by a man named Joe who lets troubled teens stay there when they need to without asking for anything in return. Stephie is pregnant and afraid to face her parents. Her boyfriend, Jason, is torn between supporting her and the baby and getting into college with an athletic scholarship. Dontay is living with a foster family while his parents are in jail. Carmen lives with her grandmother and has a drinking problem. Harris is gay and has been disowned by his father. Katie is being abused by her stepfather. Keesha has been living at Joe’s ever since she ran away from her abusive father, and now she tries to help other kids like herself and to try and keep her brother out of trouble.
The poetry format makes this book fairly quick and easy to read, and it also gives the reader deeper access to the characters thoughts and feelings than a prose novel might. There are two sections of the book in which the poems aren’t from the point of view of the characters themselves, but the adults connected to them, like Stephie’s mother or Dontay’s case worker. Getting to see into the heads of these adults is an interesting perspective that one doesn’t see in a lot of teen novels, and would be harder to accomplish without the poetry format.