The Ice House

­Little, Brown. Nov. 2021. 352p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316705349.
Gr 5 Up–A gentle middle grade debut in a near-future dystopia where climate change affects everyone, and life is full of changes. Six months ago the world got covered in snow, and it just never stopped coming down. People are calling it the Freeze, and there’s rumors it’s a new Ice Age. Sixth grader Louisa has been stuck at home ever since, as the city has deemed being outside unsafe. Online learning, plus a younger brother who’s struggling with cabin fever, a mom affected by grief, and a dad who works long hours, means life is hard for everyone. When a family friend, Louisa’s former good friend Luke’s dad, is struck on the head and loses his memory, the two children decide to build a snow fort as a way to escape their harsh realities, and their friendship slowly rekindles. A bit of magical realism appears inside the structure, and Louisa and Luke make it their special getaway place, where no one else is allowed inside. The story has an overall slow pace, and the reality of the Freeze has clear COVID-19 pandemic analogies. Every character in this book, even those in the periphery, seems to be struggling, and the plot can only be described as bleak. The little magic that the main characters experience doesn’t amount to much of anything, which in addition to the rushed ending, can leave readers wanting more.
VERDICT Purchase for upper elementary and middle schools where there is interest in pandemic stories and dystopia.

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