Frost by Kate Avery Ellison belongs with books like Matched and Under The Never Sky. I got this book from a LibraryThing giveaway, and I had high hopes. Honestly, the cover had me convinced that this book was professionally published, though I didn't see any mention of a publisher on the Smashwords page.
Lia Weaver lives in the Frost, a monster-filled forest next to the mountains. Her parents were killed by the Watchers, monsters that live in the forest, and she now has to struggle to keep their farm and her siblings together. To stay independent they have to meet their quota of yarn for the townspeople, and they receive supplies in return. If they don't meet quota they will be split up and the farm will be abandoned.
Then one day Lia's sister goes off into the woods alone and finds a Farther, someone from the totalitarian empire far south of the frost, bleeding to death in the cold. Against all reason and against the strict rules of the community, Lia brings him home and nurses him back to health. Lia has to figure out how to get him to a place called "the Gate," and keep the townspeople from knowing that he's even there. But she doesn't even know what "the Gate" is.
One thing I liked about this story is that even though it is a very standard love story (heroin nurses the savage foreigner to health, while falling into a forbidden love), it has elements that make it much more believable. Lia is a survivor and it isn't in the "I'm a badass" kind of way. Lia is torn between how easy it would be for her to get married and leave the farm,and keeping her family safe. Doing so would mean her sister would be sent to very harsh labor and her brother might not be taken care of at all because he was lamed in an accident when he was six.
When she meets the Farther, there isn't just the feeling that she has to do this because he's a human being. Noble as that is, it's the reason everyone does this in every forbidden love dying man romance. That is there, but the real reason is love at first sight, though she won't admit it to herself. Why do I think this is better than the way everyone else does this? I'm quite honestly sick of the hate leads to love cliché (though it's kind of in there as well), and though love at first sight is also a cliché, it's kind of gone out of style. "I hate you. No. I love you" is now en vogue. This at least gives some motivation, and makes the love story less ridiculous. it almost seems natural. I don't want to read a book and have a romantic story arc smashed in when two characters have simply been insulting and horrible to each other for most of the book.
The world is well-developed, and I felt like I understood how everything worked. Last names told you what the person did in town. the idea of ribbons and flowers as protective charms against the Watchers stayed consistent, and was used nicely through all of the action scenes.
I highly suggest this book and I'm giving it 4 stars.
(reviewed 19 days after purchase)