Title: Memories of Summer
Author: Ruth White
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 160
I finished this book in one sitting. It’s an extremely sad story but well-written and with believable characters. It’s one of those books where from the very beginning you know things aren’t going to end well. It’s set in the 1950’s and narrated by Lyric, a girl who’s family moves from the country to a larger city in hopes of finding work. Lyric’s mother is dead so it’s just her, her daddy, and her older sister Summer. As time goes by, it becomes increasingly clear that something is wrong with Summer. She has undiagnosed schizophrenia and as her behavior becomes more erratic and disturbed Lyric and her dad have trouble admitting to themselves that her psychosis is not something they can handle themselves.
I’m not an expert on schizophrenia, but this depiction seemed very believable and not sensationalized like portrayals of this mental illness often are. Lyric’s dad is a good person and you really get a sense of how much this family loves each other and how they’d do anything for each other. The setting is vividly realized and even though some of the story felt a little obvious/on-the-nose to me (like the recurring dream Lyric has about her sister) I thought this was a powerful novel that doesn’t offer easy answers for the subject matter it portrays. I remember refusing to read Belle Prater’s Boy when I was in the gifted program in school because it was too depressing. Ruth White is an outstanding writer, but I’d recommend her books to teenagers and mature pre-teens. I’m 26, and this left me feeling emotionally exhausted at the end.
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