I’m such a sucker for a sister story, AND I’ve been reading more mysteries lately. So Frozen Beauty sounded like the perfect book for me!
Title: Frozen Beauty
Author: Lexa Hillyer
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Genres: YA Contemporary Mystery
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Everyone in Devil’s Lake knows the three golden Malloy sisters—but one of them is keeping a secret that will turn their little world inside out….
No one knows exactly what happened to Kit in the woods that night—not even her sisters, Tessa and Lilly. All they have are a constellation of facts: icy blue lips and fingers cold to the touch, a lacy bra, an abandoned pick-up truck with keys still in the ignition.
Even though everyone is quick to jump to conclusions, Tessa is certain that her sister’s killer wasn’t Boyd, the boy next door whom they’ve all loved in their own way. Still, there are too many details that don’t add up, too many secrets tucked away in the past.
But no matter how fiercely Tessa searches for answers, at the core of that complicated night is a truth that’s heartbreakingly simple.
- First off, I love the setting! Devil’s Lake is so atmospheric and wintry. This is such a perfect book to read on a snowy day.
- The cover for this book is incredible.
- This is told from several point of views, and some of the chapters are set in the past, and some in the present. I felt this structure worked really well with the story. As the two timelines get closer and closer, I was scrambling (in a good way) to put the clues together and figure everything out.
- There is weird, sentimental high school poetry in this book… and I loved it! Definitely took me back to my AP English days 😀
- I guessed the ending at 80%, and I got it right—but not all of it! That was a satisfying feeling.
I really enjoyed how the author explored her two main characters, sisters Tessa and Lilly. Tessa’s pov is explored only in the present, as she digs through all the clues and tries to figure out what happened to her sister. Lilly’s pov is told in the past, both through diary entries and through a more regular point of view. Once I’d figured out this pattern, I was really intrigued by this choice. And seeing how everything ends, I found this choice to be a really smart decision. Both of their POVs stood out to me as very distinct. It was pretty easy to tell who was who. There are also some other POVs sprinkled in there, and I thought those brought a lot into the story as well.
I especially liked seeing the bond between sisters. The love between Kit, Tessa, and Lilly is intense, if messy at times. But it felt really realistic. Really punched me in the gut sometimes.
One thing I wished there was more of was an exploration of Kit herself. We get her thoughts through poetry, and we see her in the ‘past’ chapters, but I wish we could have gotten more of her. I understand why the author didn’t add more, but I can still wish 🙂
I loved how the clues are laid out in the very beginning of the book, and then the clues are explored and hinted at and then put together… this part of the mystery was masterful. It was so fun trying to put everything together myself. I didn’t quite do it right, but seeing everything together was very satisfying.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves sister stories and mysteries. Very enjoyable!
About the Author
Lexa Hillyer is the Founder and President of Publishing at Glasstown Entertainment, an all-womxn creative development and production company located in New York and Los Angeles. She is also the author of Frozen Beauty, Spindle Fire, Winter Glass, and Proof of Forever, all young adult novels published by HarperCollins, as well as the poetry collection Acquainted with the Cold from Bona Fide Books. Acquainted with the Cold was the 2012 gold prize winner of the Foreword Book of the Year Award for Poetry and received the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize. Her work has been featured in a variety of journals and collections including Best New Poets 2012, and she has received several honors for poetry. Lexa earned her BA in English from Vassar College and her MFA in Poetry from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. She worked as an editor at both HarperCollins and Penguin, before founding Glasstown Entertainment along with New York Times Bestselling author Lauren Oliver. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter and their very skinny orange tree.
Secrets, secrets. Everyone had them. Everyone kept them from Lilly, kept her out.
This is what comes of curiosity, the wind whispered, hard and cold in her ear, swishing up into her skull. She shuddered. Snow soaked her boots.
As the youngest of three, this was the story of her life: this winter coldness, this left-out-ness, this butt-out-and-don’t-complain-or-you’ll-sound-like-a-whiny-baby-ness.
But here they were now: two glowing yellow headlights through the swirl of falling snow, through the blur of fading streetlights, through the dark of Route 28. Twin golden keys to the fucking treasure.
And she had to have it, she thought, her hands shaking—had to know the secret. Between Kit and Tessa, Lilly was always excluded from the things that really mattered. But this time, she would know, would force her way in. The warmth of the golden orbs called to her with some kind of dark, irrepressible magic, and there was so little magic in this world. Lilly only wanted her share.
It was a Saturday night. Lilly and Mel had been having their customary Saturday night sleepover at Mel’s house, which sat just on the edge of Devil’s Lake, the weeds and trees in her backyard giving way to the protected woods. Lilly had started to believe that their friendship was back on track. But when she’d awakened after midnight to find Mel gone, and the bedroom window cracked open, letting in a tiny but steady stream of frigid air, she’d had to assume the obvious: Mel had snuck out.
And if she had snuck out, it could only be for one reason: to meet up with Dusty, her on-again-off-again something. After all, Mel had been texting furiously all night, even during the rom-com sex scenes.
In a mix of disappointment and curiosity, Lilly had pushed open the bedroom door and crept down the quiet hall, past the den where all of Mel’s dad’s hunting rifles hung proudly in a row, polished and gleaming black even in the dark. Mel wasn’t in the house.
So, naturally, Lilly had slithered through the front door, into the slowly filling pocket of snow by the side of the house, then went in search of her friend—and answers. Maybe Dusty’s car would be parked around the corner of the cul-de-sac.
But what she’d found was a whole other kind of secret. Not more than the length of a football field down the main road sat a truck, its engine still going. Only yards from the edge of Mel’s property, if you cut through the woods.
And it wasn’t just any truck. The red truck. Boyd’s red truck. It was parked at the side of the road near the preserve, a hulking metal animal heaving its breath into the cold . . . and of course, her curiosity had snagged like a loose-knit sweater on a chain-link fence.
She felt that pull, that need to understand.
She reasoned: what if Boyd needed help, needed her?
A flash of doubt flooded Lilly’s brain for a minute. What if Mel had gotten back already and wondered where Lilly had gone?
No—Mel was with Dusty, she was sure of that much. Mel had chosen her loyalties.
Now: a male voice drifting out over the wind. The sound of a car door slamming. She was almost there, and the heat of discovery drove her on.
But it was so cold. So cold and so dark. The sparse streetlights did little to help, spinning patches of air into gold-hued snow blurs. She had to hurry.
Lilly scrunched her winter hat down lower. Still squinting, she made out a figure—no, two figures—floating from the shoulder of the road, toward the looming darkness of the woods that backed up to Devil’s Lake from Route 28.
Mel and Dusty?
Mel and Boyd?
Voices took clearer shape in the air as she got closer, though the words themselves wove and dodged and blew away. Holding her breath, hidden by the hounding snowfall and the heavy dark, she came all the way up to the driver’s side—the side facing the road—without the figures noticing. She peered through the window. The keys were still in the ignition, a faint silver clump dangling in shadow.
Shivering, she rounded the back of the truck, careful to stay hidden from view behind the glow of the taillights.
A guy and a girl, arguing.
Her heart hammered. She had to strain to see them in the bad light and the fierce snowfall, but she recognized Boyd by his height and his hunting hat. And the girl with him wasn’t Mel at all. . . .
She was unmistakable. She wore no hat, and her golden hair shone even in the darkness.
It was Kit.
Lilly took a step back. Was she being crazy right now? You didn’t just traipse along the road late at night by yourself, in the middle of a storm. She should head back. What was she thinking?
But then again, she could almost hear Tessa’s voice in her head: weren’t Boyd and Kit—the ever-trusted boy next door and the older sister everyone in school looked up to—up to something crazy, too? Tessa was always talking about likelihoods and hypotheses. Lilly wasn’t exactly a star at science, but you didn’t have to be a neurosurgeon to solve this equation: if you were those two and you were driving around in Boyd’s truck together on a Saturday night, in secret—you didn’t pull over in a storm, either. Not unless something was wrong. Not unless something was going on.
Lilly watched from behind the truck as Boyd put his hand on Kit’s arm, and she shook, possibly crying.
Was he grabbing her now? Had she let him?
Slowly he pulled open her coat.
Lilly shuddered hard. Kit said something, but Lilly caught only snatches of her words: please and you’re making a mistake and I don’t believe you.
The racing of Lilly’s heart became a loud ringing through her ears and head. What was happening? Kit’s voice, dancing on the wind, seemed to ebb and peak and break.
Lilly trusted Boyd; of course, she did. Hell, she loved Boyd. But she also knew how angry he got sometimes. Once he’d shoved Tessa so hard she’d fallen into the gravel on the playground and torn open her shin. Then again, that had been right after Tessa kneed him in the balls. They were ten then, and nothing like that had happened since.
But still. Lilly remembered. Lilly always remembered.
She stood on the verge of calling to them when Kit got quiet, moving closer to Boyd. Then she was touching his face. And he was leaning down, and they were kissing—mist rising from where their faces met.
Hot breath in the cold night.
So they weren’t fighting.
A flash of mortification.
Everyone was coupling off, hooking up, lying to Lilly about it.
She backed up toward the road, the thrill of voyeurism bursting suddenly into hot shame. A car rushed past her and honked.
She gasped, startled, realizing how easy it would have been to get hit.
Sweat tickled the back of her neck even in the freezing cold. Had the honk drawn Kit’s attention? The last thing she wanted was for Kit to think she’d been spying—which was, of course, exactly the truth. The last thing she needed was to give anyone more ammo for treating her like a fucking kid,one more reason to say butt out or I told you so.
Quickly, without looking back, she raced through the trees, taking the shortcut into Mel’s backyard. She couldn’t have been gone very long, but still. A person could die out here, on a night like this.
Icy pellets of snow blew into her eyes and Lilly could hardly see at all now—but that didn’t stop her from replaying the moment she had just witnessed over and over again: Boyd’s plaid hunting hat as he leaned down toward Kit’s face, and their lips met, and they kissed.
And above them, in the winter air all around them, the echo of Kit’s voice, saying please.
Later, long after she’d curled back onto her side of the trundle bed in Mel’s room—after she’d awakened the next morning to her friend lying beside her, softly snoring—Lilly would recall that word, please,and know for certain that it had been Kit’s final plea for her life. That if only she had stayed, or shouted, or called for help, maybe things would have gone differently.
Maybe her sister would still be alive.