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Memories of Summer is a semi-autobiographical work of fiction written by Ruth White. Sisters Lyric and Summer are delighted when their father announces they'll be moving from their small Virginia town to Flint, Michigan. But shortly after they've settled in Summer begins to act strangely and only gets worse as time goes on. Lyric just wants to enjoy her new life, but the increasing worry about her sister and the need to take care of her begins to take its toll and eventually, a difficult choice must be made.
Memories of Summer contains examples of:
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Summer becomes one to a soldier named Bill, constantly flirting with him and even trying to get him to take her on a date. Because Summer is only 16 and Bill is an adult, he's quite unnerved by this.
    • Summer's Glory Bottom beau Anderson Biddle. She lets him take her out on dates and flirt with her because she enjoys the attention, but she doesn't love him and even says right out she won't marry him in the first chapter.
  • Adult Fear: Summer runs away and goes missing during an outing with Lyric, and Claude is terrified. Not only is he afraid of what could happen to a teenage girl in a big city, but by this point Summer's mental state is really deteriorating.
    • Just the last portion of the book in general as Claude watches Summer become more and more unhinged and dangerous, to the point where it's not safe for Lyric to be around her anymore. He's forced to institutionalize her when she hits Lyric in the head with a coffee mug and makes her bleed.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Lyric's friend Yolanda talks about this trope, and about how her chickens back home used to gang up on a pretty white one. "They peck you to death if you're different." Lyric later sees this for herself when Summer comes to see her audition, and is heckled and jeered at for her unkempt appearance and behaviors
  • And I Must Scream: Summer is aware that she's slipping further and further into her madness. At one point she looks in a mirror and says "see, Lyric? I'm fading."
  • Because You Can Cope: Averted, and hard. Claude worries about Lyric trying to be Summer's caretaker and tells her he doesn't want to miss out on living her own life, and the doctors fear for Lyric's safety when Summer starts to become more violent.
  • Bedlam House: Averted, the mental asylum Lyric and her father take Summer to is well-ordered and calm.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Summer used to protect Lyric from bullies back in Glory Bottom. This is addressed during a subversion of the trope when  Summer shows up to watch Lyric's audition for the school musical and gets heckled for her condition. Lyric shoves aside the loudest heckler and rushes to her sister's side.
  • Break the Cutie: Lyric and Summer both go through this. Summer doesn't get better.
  • But Not Too Black: Lyric's friend Yolanda's mother was half-white and half-black, and her father is full Mexican. This makes Yolanda herself half-Mexican and a quarter black.
  • Call Back: At the end of the book, Lyric and her friends go to a street festival where Lyric tells a boy asking for her number "I know you just wanna break my heart, cutie pie"...the exact line Summer had given a boy at another festival near the beginning of the story.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Even before the diagnosis Summer had always been a bit off. Lyric didn't think anything of it.
  • Contemplating Your Hands: Summer does this at one point.
  • Cool Big Sis: Summer was this to Lyric before her mental illness kicked in.
  • Cool Teacher: Lyric's teachers are incredibly kind to her from the beginning, including her gym teacher letting her assist him until she can afford to buy a gym suit.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: In a sense. Summer herself doesn't die, but the girl she used to be is as good as gone.
  • Downer Ending: Summer ends up sent to the mental asylum, where the doctor tells Lyric and their father that she'll never return to her old self.
  • The Dutiful Daughter: Lyric
  • Eye Scream: Summer ends up scratching herself in the eye during a fit of insanity, blaming it on the "wolves".
  • The ’50s
  • Foreshadowing: Along with a lot of little hints at Summer's eventual fate, Lyric has a dream where the two of them are trying to run from wolves in Glory Bottom. Lyric manages to fly, but Summer can't, and Lyric has to let her go so she can survive. At the end of the book, she and their father have no choice but to put her in the asylum when Summer becomes so unstable and violent that it's not safe for her to be around Lyric.
  • Full-Name Basis: Anderson Biddle at the beginning of the story, due to this being how one addresses "town folks" in Glory Bottom.
  • Funny Schizophrenia: Defied. Summer's degeneration and symptoms are portrayed as the horrifying things they are, and not once is her disorder referred to as having a split personality.
  • Growing Up Sucks
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Summer and Lyric's grandfather was a coal miner who was trapped with six others during a cave-in. He let the others believe they had more time left so they'd do their best to stay alive, but at the cost of his own life.
  • Hope Spot: Anytime Summer starts perking up and acting more like herself. This only makes the ending hurt more, though.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Summer's beauty fades as her mental illness takes a toll on her overall health. She even points this out during an outing with Lyric.
  • Imaginary Friend: Summer claims her and Lyric's deceased mother is in the kitchen with them, as is their grandfather's ghost, and that she's talking to them about how wrong it is for Claude to be dating.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Subverted. Lyric and Claude are surprised when Summer starts hitting people and attacks Lyric, because they hadn't expected it considering Summer's symptoms were passive and verbal (paranoia, hiding, withdrawing from life, muttering nonsense, talking to imaginary people).
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Mrs. Compton died of consumption when the girls were young.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: The way mentally ill people were treated in Glory Bottom. Lyric fears she's letting Summer become this to her, and feels horribly guilty about it.
  • Meaningful Name: Invoked by the girls' mother, who insisted her children would have no "common names".
  • Missing Mom: The girls' mother died when they were young children. Yolanda mentions her mother died recently, too.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Lyric when the family first arrives in the big city.
  • The Ophelia: Summer has shades of this before her lack of self-care and self-mutilation make her look more grotesque. At one point, she even sits on a swing in the backyard, barefoot and in her nightgown while singing.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Claude, the girls' father, begins dating the manager of the general store. Lyric is happy for him, but Summer throws a fit.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Anderson Biddle talks about wanting to marry Summer, but Claude won't have it. Summer doesn't seem too cut up about it, though.
  • Potty Failure: Summer, when she tries to go into the apartment's bathroom and turn on the light herself but ends up freezing in terror. There's no humor whatsoever about it.
  • Promotion to Parent: Subverted, it's younger sister Lyric who ends up doing most of the cooking and housework and looking after Summer. The trope ends up being deconstructed by Lyric's increasing worries and stress and culminates in Summer becoming so violent they have no choice but to take her to the mental asylum.
  • Reality Subtext: During their trip into town, Summer pleads with Lyric to promise she won't be forgotten when she dies or disappears. The book is semi-autobiographical, meaning either Ruth White's sister asked this of her or Ruth herself didn't want her sister to be forgotten.
  • Talkative Loon: Summer, during the periods where she hasn't shut down and withdrawn from life.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted, Summer starts seeing a psychiatrist halfway through the story. It seems to work...for a while.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Summer's mental illness causes her to be grouchy and say nasty things to Lyric and Claude late in the story.
  • Trauma Swing: Played with. In one scene, Summer is sitting on a swing in her nightgown on a chilly night, singing to herself, and she appears perfectly serene. But it's a sign of her worsening mental state.
  • True Companions: Lyric's friends Gladys, Nadine, Yolanda, and Michael become this to her over time.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Summer is terrified of dogs, even calling them "wolves" and thinking they want to attack her. She's also afraid of electricity due to having been shocked twice as a child, and refuses to turn on the light switch or the family's new TV set herself.
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