The Birds of Summer describes a family environment unfamiliar to many young adults. Summer, the daughter of an ex-hippie, lives in a trailer in the woods. Her free-spirited mother allows her more liberties than most fifteen-year-olds receive, and Summer faces few restrictions.
But Summer's lifestyle also demands adult responsibilities. She raises her younger sister and works to keep the family together, compensating for her mother's childishness and irresponsibility. These extraordinary responsibilities, combined with her lack of a father, leave Summer feeling very lonely as she confronts the onset of puberty and an increasing awareness of her sexuality.
In addition to following Summer's growth as a character, the novel provides a fast-paced plot. Summer's mother accidentally becomes involved with drug dealers, endangering herself and her family. Summer and her friend Nicky assume the responsibility for solving this dilemma.
Summer's upbringing differs vastly from that of most teenagers, but her more typical concerns make her easy to relate to. The book explores many conflicts relevant to young adults: maturity, responsibility, parent-adolescent relationships, friendship, sexuality, and loneliness. Snyder presents these issues with understanding and sophistication.
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