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 a contemporary young adult drama set in the world of an Amish community in Pinecraft, Florida. The book sheds light on an otherwise secretive and mysterious society and offers an unprejudiced look at this way of life, one that I knew very little about prior. It was both educational and a reminder that the details of peoples’ lives are often just details. Deep down, everyone has the same wants, needs, and desires. The story is told by Lucy, a young Beachy Amish-Mennonite on the cusp of baptism, an event that will bind her to the church forever. When Lucy’s best friend, Alice, an Old Order girl from a stricter Amish section in Maine, goes missing, Lucy has to make a decision. Will she do whatever it takes to find her friend, even if that means going against the grain?
Crissa-Jean Chappell’s writing is the real star of this novel. Her command of words is astounding, so much so that the book has a strong poetic feel to it. The use of metaphors and imagery certainly characterize her overall style, but it really is the closing sentences of each chapter that add the magical touch. These final thoughts, the ones that button up each section, tend to convey messages in more artistic and less blatant ways. Consequently, in this sense, the story is very beautiful to read.
Overall, despite Lucy’s confines, this novel is quite exciting and adventurous. However, though the plot is engaging, I would have loved a bigger payoff at the end of the story. There is so much buildup in locating Alice and wondering whether she is actually alive that the conclusion, though logical, is slightly anticlimactic. With that being said, SNOWBIRDS is still a diamond in the rough and will firmly appeal to avid readers.