These days, it’s rare for me to sit down and complete an entire book in one day. Between getting projects completed for my internship and everyday activities, I’ve had to squeeze reading into the few measly hours that I get for myself. Snowbirds by Crissa-Jean Chappell is one of the books that I’m glad to have included in my limited reading time schedule. In this less than 300-page young adult novel, Chappell explores the depth of friendship, the fickleness of youth and gives readers a chance to see what growing up in different Amish sects is like.
This sweet coming-of-age novel is centered around a young female protagonist named Lucy who lives in an Amish-Mennonite community in Florida. Every winter, Lucy’s best friend, Alice, travels along with other members of the Old Order Amish to Florida from the North. However, there’s a tremor in their relationship when Alice turns sixteen and can go on “Rumspringa”. “Rumspringa” in the Old Order is where teens are allowed to take part in forbidden activities such as parties, drinking, etc.
The Old Order is known to be the kind of Amish that believe in no use of technology, are supposed to ride horses and wagons, grow their crops themselves, etc. While the Amish denomination that Lucy originates from is allowed to have electronic appliances and other new age technology but still adhere to the Amish livelihood. Lucy isn’t accustomed to this “Rumspringa” side of Alice and is constantly trying to keep up with Alice’s newly-found indulgences but it begins to slowly tear their friendship apart. One night Alice drags Lucy to a “Rumspringa” party and they part ways after a heated argument. Things get even more hectic between these besties when Alice suddenly vanishes after the party. Lucy is overwhelmed with guilt since she was with an Old Order boy named Faron for most of the night and only realized that Alice was missing after she doesn’t show up the next day. The manic that ensues takes Lucy on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery.
It’s not the first time that I’ve read a book featuring the Amish community. However, it is the first time that I’ve actually read about different Amish sects. I always thought that the Amish abided by strict moral codes such as dressing in long, plain dresses and prayer caps. However, Snowbirds shares a different side of the Amish. It explores two denominations of Amish, the Old Order and the Mennonites, and gives readers an insight on what it’s like to live within one of these communities. Readers get to see this through both Lucy and Alice’s eyes; through Alice’s letters that Lucy never read, she talks about her life on the farm and how boring she finds Old Order life to be compared to when she visits Lucy. Lucy shows what it’s like to live as a Mennonite (even if she’s considered unusual because she can’t cook and prefers to do woodwork with her father). The description of the places and people easily grab you into the story and leave you wanting to know even more about the Amish.
While the character are a little generic, what keeps the book afloat is Alice’s disappearance and the steps Lucy takes to find her missing friend. I wasn’t captivated by any characters in this novel but it was still awesome to read about their interactions and backstory. If you’re curious about the Amish culture or just in the mood for some unusual teenage angst, take a read of this cute novel.