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I’ll Fly Away, Oh Glory

Despite having had high hopes for the book, Lacey wishes Snowbirds would fly south for the winter and stay there.

I’ll Fly Away, Oh Glory

BOOK REPORT for Snowbirds by Crissa-Jean Chappell

Cover Story: That’s No Bird
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Bahia Vista
Bonus Factor: Religion
Relationship Status: Fake Phone Number

Cover Story: That’s No Bird

No, I mean, it IS a bird on the cover there, but if you say “that’s no bird,” it sounds like “that snowbird.” DO YOU GET IT?

Anyway, the cover of the review copy I was reading was way different, and every time I looked at it, I felt like I was a member of the paparazzi, creepin’ on a couple of Beachy Amish girls:

The Deal:

So I wasn’t kidding about the “Beachy Amish” girls. Our heroine Lucy is one of them, though her best friend Alice is Old Order Amish. In real life, Beachy Amish actually exist! They are a bona fide subgroup of Amish, with some key differences, like being allowed to have electricity in the house. The “Beachy” part comes from some old church leader’s last name—the beach in this book is a coincidence.

Lucy lives in Florida; Alice lives in Maine. But every September, Alice and a bunch of other Old Order Amish folk take a bus down south for the winter. Hence the term “snowbirds.” (Could you imagine living through an Ohio winter without indoor plumbing?!)

This fall, after eagerly awaiting Alice’s arrival, Lucy soon realizes that something has changed between them. When Alice disappears the day after a party, Lucy embarks on a journey to find her best friend—and maybe also herself.

BFF Charm: Meh

It would be awfully hard to be Lucy’s friend, considering how busy she is working for her dad or doing chores around the house, or the fact that she doesn’t go to school. I’d honestly never see the girl! I don’t know if the Beachy Amish have a deal with the government or something, but in her church, girls stop school after 10th grade. If Lucy’s dad had his way, she’d stay in her hometown forever. But Lucy’s thinking about ditching her upcoming baptism in favor of going to college to study marine biology. In fact, she’s even applied for a scholarship, although I’m not sure how that would work if she didn’t finish high school. Still, she just might make it out of Sarasota to follow her dreams.

But I’m sorry, Lucy. There is just so much that you’re not allowed to do, like watch TV. I doubt you’ve read any YA books. And we couldn’t borrow each other’s outfits, because you aren't allowed to wear jeans and that's like the only thing I ever wear. And I am not allowed to wear those Little House On The Prairie dresses. I mean, technically I am, but I don't want to. No offense; it’s just not my style.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

Lucy’s love interest is a boy named Faron who was Old Order Amish before he was shunned for rejecting the faith. (“I quit!” “No, you’re fired!”) He’s the kind of character I would like in theory. I might even like Lucy, too, in theory. But unfortunately, the writing style and story structure of this book got completely in the way, and any sparks that were flying between Lucy and Faron were doused way before they could catch anything on fire.

Talky Talk: Bahia Vista

I had such high hopes for the story, as I have a soft spot for Leaving The Faith testimonies. Especially when they involve young people learning to trust their own beautiful minds and find a community of people who accept them unconditionally. Gets me every time. I was so hoping this book would be such a tale. And maybe deep down it is. But on the surface, and in the middle too, it’s disjointed, contradictory and distractingly repetitive.

It’s obvious the author spent time hanging around some Beachy and Old Order Amish kids in the Pinecraft neighborhood of Sarasota in Southwest Florida. And it’s obvious she took notes about restaurants and street names, as well. She mentions the main highway there, Bahia Vista Avenue, about 489 times. I wanted to throw the book across my room 487 times.

There were a few metaphors that were also repeated too much for my liking. Like the doves inside a sand dollar as representation of the secrets people keep. I was like, Oi with the sand dollars already!

The metaphors that were used sparingly were, unfortunately, not fleshed out. It was a bit like reading snippets of a personal essay that someone had cut and pasted together in hopes of creating a poetic work of fiction. But instead, it became a Frankenstein’s monster of a thing: beachy, spiritual imagery for limbs and a vague mystery/plot for a spine. Where’s the heart, yo? Where’s the soul?

Oh and I just gotta vent about this one part where Lucy says she wants to fly away, “even” higher than the cars speeding down Bahia Vista… Yep, there’s that road again. But even higher than the cars? Your average sedan is, what, 5 feet high?

Bonus Factor: Religions

The reason I was interested in this book in the first place was the Amish stuff. I love reading about religions, especially historical fiction. (Quick book rec: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff.) And I did learn a few interesting facts. I had no idea that there were less traditional Amish folks, and that they congregate down in Florida. I also didn’t realize that the Rumspringa tradition of allowing 16-year-olds to act like they’re not Amish (play video games, wear t-shirts from the store, etc.) before deciding whether to stay in the church is only an Old Order tradition. Or that the ban against technology is really about keeping away the “outside world”—protecting their close community and way of life.

In this case, however, I wish I had just read about the Beachy Amish on Wikipedia; I found the story development, characters and especially the writing in Snowbirds problematic and weak.

Casting Call:

Did you guys see Electrick Children from a few years back? Wrong religion, but still, I couldn’t get those characters out of my mind, so ….

Julia Garner as Lucy

Liam Aiken as Faron

Relationship Status: Fake Phone Number

Book, when I first met you, I was like, “Maybe I want this book to call me sometime.” But that quickly changed, and I’m sorry to admit that the cell number I gave you was fake. I hope you and the girl you actually called were able to get a drink (of milk) and hit it off, though. Best of luck to you!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Merit Press, but was not paid for this review. Snowbirds is available January 18, 2017.

Lacey Nadeau's photo About the Author: It's taken a decade, but Lacey has finally decided she misses the beaches of Southern California where she grew up. (It took only about a minute for her to miss the Mexican food.) However, she's pretty committed to the fun and sun of Denver, CO, where she plays with spreadsheets by day, and drinks boozy slushies with her husband and puppy by night. The puppy just pretends.