Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler
Fifteen-year-old Dusty picks up her phone to find that a strange boy is calling her to say that he is dying. She tells him to call the police, but he refuses. As they talk further, the boy sounds more and more like Dusty’s missing brother Josh. Just before he hangs up, he says, “‘I’m sorry little Dusty. Good-bye, little Dusty.’”
Those are the last words Josh had spoken to her.
Feeling that the strange boy must know something about Josh’s whereabouts, Dusty braves a freezing night. She hurries out into the wooded areas beyond her town and into the thick snow. Just as she’s sure she’s tracked the boy through footprints, a strange man, his sons, and two pit bulls are after her. The chase is on, with more to follow, right to the end of this supernatural thrill ride.
As Dusty’s search for the strange, elusive boy evolves, she finds herself in more and more trouble. She has a difficult time talking to her dad about her comings and goings because he is trying to get over his separation from Dusty’s mom, a rift that is partly a consequence of Josh’s disappearance. It’s clear that Dusty wants to find Josh because she loves and misses him, but it’s also true that she believes knowing what happened to Josh will help her befuddled dad. So maybe that’s why she lies to the police as well when they insist that the boy is dangerous and that she must stay away from him.
In her quest for the truth, Dusty is pushing away her friends and taking on many enemies. She is fearless, which leads to some of the most suspenseful scenes in the novel–she’ll take on anyone, boys and men included.
The chills and suspense of the novel derive not only from the real dangers that Dusty finds herself in, but from the ‘frozen fire’ of the title. It’s an atmosphere that she shares with the ghostly boy, and Bowler perfectly creates and holds it. While others do not sense it, as the snow falls endlessly, the supreme chill is often cut by a burning heat. The air, the sky, the world is so brightly lit that it is sometimes impossible to see. All is white. Quiet. Spooky.
Why is it that Dusty sees the world as the boy does? How can this specter of a boy know so much about Dusty? How can he so often speak aloud exactly what she is thinking?
High school housekeeping: As I often admit, I love horror that is spine-tingling rather than ‘slasher’ driven. Frozen Fire doesn’t quite fit the horror genre although the boy who drives Dusty to seek Josh appears to be supernatural in his weird whiteness and his ability to absorb realities of which he has no part. It’s certainly a thriller. I had hoped it was a book for reluctant readers, but after finishing it, I’d say it’s a book for readers. That is, although there are many white-knuckle chase scenes and scenes full of danger and intent to kill, understanding of the ghostly boy comes slowly because he is so elusive. If you are ready to follow that strange kid, you’ll find yourself richly rewarded with a creepy, open-ended finale, one that will begin great discussion with friends who have read the book as well. This would make a wonderful teen book group read. Try it.