Title: Snowbirds by Crissa-Jean Chappell
Publisher: Merit Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: C+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
Every year, Lucy waits eagerly for the arrival of the “snowbirds,” the Old Order Amish who come trundling into Florida on buses from the north, bringing Lucy’s best friend Alice, with whom she’s spent every winter she can remember. This winter is different. At sixteen, Alice is in the middle of “Rumspringa,” a season in which Amish teens try out forbidden temptations, in order to get them out of their system. Lucy is part of a different sect, in which teens aren’t allowed such bold experimentation, and she’s fighting to keep up as Alice races from one wild party to the next. Then, one night after just such a party, Alice vanishes. Wracked by guilt, Lucy knows that she should have been watching out for Alice, but instead, she was kissing Faron, an Older Order boy shunned by his society. Now, Lucy plunges into a search for her best friend–while also hiding her own secret, which could put her in even more danger.
Snowbirds by Crissa-Jean Chappell is an intriguing young adult novel about a teenager’s disappearance following a party on a beach.
Sixteen year old Lucy Zimmer lives with her father in Pinecraft, FL and although they are members of the Mennonite church, she is close friends with Alice Yoder, an Old Order Amish girl from Maine. Lucy is eagerly awaiting the yearly arrival of Alice, who spends the winter in Pinecraft with her mom. Lucy is surprised at the differences in Alice whose rebellious behavior coincides with her “Rumspringa”. Lucy is alarmed at Alice’s plans to run away with her boyfriend Tobias and after the two girls have an argument at a party, Lucy leaves her friend at the party to view the sunrise on another beach with a “shunned” Amish young man, Faron Mast. The next morning, Lucy learns Alice is missing and she cannot help but blame herself for her friend’s disappearance.
Although Lucy is a member of the less strict Mennonite Church, she and her father lead a fairly simple, technology free life. While she is aghast at some of Alice’s choices, she is also a little jealous at her friend’s brief period of freedom during Rumspringa. Lucy is chafing against her dad’s expectations for her future and unable to go against his wishes, she is giving in without fighting for what she wants. After Alice vanishes without a trace, Lucy is determined to find out the truth about what that night, but will she ruin her relationship with her dad in the process?
The information Lucy uncovers about Alice’s activities in the preceding months is rather shocking and since she has such a sheltered life, she does not fully grasp what her friend has been up to. This does not stop her from investigating Alice’s disappearance but when she reaches a dead end in Florida, she knows she must go to Maine in order to find out as much as she can about what Alice was doing before she and her mom traveled to Pinecraft. She turns to Faron for assistance and the two embark on a somewhat perilous journey in order for her to discover what happened to her friend.
While the premise of the novel is quite interesting, some parts of the story are a little disjointed and repetitive. Lucy is somewhat impulsive and considering that she has no idea what happened to Alice, the decisions she makes are risky and lead her into dangerous situations. The truth about Alice’s disappearance is quite unexpected and just the tiniest bit disappointing.
Snowbirds by Crissa-Jean Chappell offers a fascinating peek into the differences between the Amish and Mennonite religions. In spite of the very different worlds they live in, Alice and Lucy are typical teens as they begin to doubt their faith and struggle to escape parental expectations in favor of their choices. An engaging young adult novel that readers of the genre will enjoy.