The characters in Memories of Summer
The Compton Family
The protagonist and narrator of the story. A kind and thoughtful girl who adores her family, especially her older sister. She's forced to grow up quickly as she watches her sister slide further and further into madness.
- Big Sister Instinct: Remembers Summer having this for her, so when Summer shows up to watch her audition for a school musical and a boy mocks her, Lyric shoves him hard as she rushes to Summer's defense.
- Break the Cutie
- Country Mouse
- The Dutiful Daughter: A deconstruction of this trope. She takes it upon herself to care for Summer as she gets worse and worse, but it soon begins to take its toll on her emotional health and at times disrupts her social life. This creates repressed resentment within her and she won't accept it, because she wants to believe her sister is more important than a social life. Then Summer begins to grow violent, and their father realizes it's too dangerous for her to be around Lyric at all
- Growing Up Sucks: Especially when Lyric is only fourteen by the end of the story, and she'll have to get through the rest of her teen years without her big sister's guidance.
- Meaningful Name: "She'll be a singer of songs so sweet it'll bring tears to your eyes." Lyric did indeed learn to sing, and almost gets an audition for a school musical.
- Naive Newcomer: It takes her some time to adjust to life in the city.
- Nice Girl
- Perpetual Frowner: One of Lyric's teachers says it's good to see her laughing because she always looks so sad. Lyric herself doesn't realize this.
- Promotion to Parent: Because her and Summer's father works, Lyric takes it upon herself to handle the housework and take care of Summer.
The titular character and Lyric's big sister. Once a bright-eyed but slightly odd teenage girl, she becomes more and more unstable after the family's move to Flint, Michigan.
- Abhorrent Admirer: To a soldier named Bill. She has a huge crush on him and even tries to get him to take her on a date, but since she's sixteen and Bill is an adult, he's clearly uncomfortable with her advances.
- And I Must Scream: She's quite aware of her deteriorating mental state, and knows there's nothing she can do to stop it.
- Big Sister Instinct: Had this for Lyric back in their childhood, to the point where Lyric often saw her as a substitute mother figure.
- Break the Cutie: Unlike her sister, she does not get better.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Even before she started showing signs of schizophrenia, she was always a little strange.
- Cool Big Sis: Was this to Lyric before her decline.
- Heroic Safe Mode: When Lyric accidentally tells Summer she might end up institutionalized if she doesn't try to dial back her behavior, Summer freaks out and completely shuts down, her eyes even going blank as she completely retreats into herself. She stays like this for roughly a week before Lyric is able to coax her out of it.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: Aside from having the hots for Bill, she expresses a desire to meet cute boys, and believes Jimmy Durante is in love with her.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Described as a beautiful teenager, but during an outing with Lyric she admits her looks aren't what they were due to the toll her poor mental health has taken on them.
- Insane Equals Violent: Subverted. Her father and sister are surprised when this happens because her symptoms were as far from it as one could get.
- Madwoman in the Attic: Lyric starts to see her this way. Summer herself also somewhat invokes it by refusing to leave the house or even her bedroom after a while.
- Meaningful Name: "She'll grow up a'sparklin' with warmth and laughter, and the world will be a brighter place with her in it." It's also suggested that Summer burns so brightly that she burns out.
- The Ophelia: Until her lack of self-care takes its toll on her looks and hygiene.
- Stalker with a Crush: To Bill. She starts calling him constantly, tracks him down and asks him for a date, and even insists he's in love with her. In truth, Bill is not happy with all this attention and asks Claude to put a stop to it.
- Talkative Loon: When she hasn't shut down and withdrawn from life.
- Took a Level In Jerkass: During the final chapters of the book, where her mental illness makes her cranky and hateful. It culminates in her smashing a coffee mug on Lyric's head, which is the moment Claude realizes they have to take her to the mental institution.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes: Is terrified of dogs and electricity.
The girls' widower father. He moves them to Flint, Michigan when he's offered a job working for General Motors, and does his best to fill the role of mother and father to them both.
- The Gambler: Used to be this before his wife and father died. After that, he put all his energy into raising his girls.
- Good Parents: Loves his daughters and only wants the best for them.
- Parents as People: That said, he struggles to deal with Summer's deterioration. Deep down he knows she won't get better and that it's dangerous to leave her alone with Lyric, but he won't have her institutionalized because he's afraid of abandoning her. He only concedes that it's the only thing to do after Summer attacks Lyric and injures her.
- It's All My Fault: Worries that Summer's worsening condition is due to him being away from the house for work so many hours.
- Overprotective Dad: Has a bit of this when the family first moves to the city, telling Summer and Lyric not to stay out past dark. Though his worries about Summer soon become quite justified...
- Parent With New Paramour: He starts dating the divorced manager of the local general store. Lyric is pleased for him, because she likes the woman and thinks her father deserves to find new love. Summer, however, throws a fit.
- Twerp Sweating: Subverted. When Summer goes missing and Bill is seen driving her home, Claude attacks him and grabs him by the collar, thinking he kidnapped and took advantage of her. However, it was Summer who tracked down Bill and tried to get him to take her on a date, and Bill was clearly uncomfortable with this. He brought her home, and asked Claude to please keep Summer away from him.
Friends and Associates
Claude's friend who's able to get them their first apartment in Flint, Michigan.
- True Companions: To the Comptons. He's always there to give them a hand when they need it.
The owner of the local general store. She becomes fast friends with Claude and Lyric, and eventually begins to date the former.
- Childhood Friend Romance: It's more or less stated that she and Claude knew each other as kids, and while they don't have a proper romantic resolution they're more or less dating throughout the course of the story.
- Love Cannot Overcome: Her husband left her and her two boys because he couldn't get used to Michigan's cold winters.
Gladys, Nadine, Yolanda
Lyric's friends from school
- All of the Other Reindeer: Yolanda talks to Lyric about this, about how her chickens back home used to gang up on one particular chicken, and how she couldn't talk about her mother being a half-colored woman due to the racism of the time. "They peck ya to death if you're different."
- But Not Too Black: Yolanda's father is Mexican and her mother was half-black and half-white.
- Flat Character: Aside from Yolanda getting a bit more background, they're basically just kind and supportive girls.
- True Companions: The three become this to Lyric over time, Lyric even realizing she never had to fear them finding out about Summer, because they don't treat her any differently.
Lyric's unofficial boyfriend.
- Love Interest: Downplayed. He and Lyric become good friends and she invites him over, but Claude won't let her date yet.
- Nice Guy: Helps Lyric look for Summer when the latter runs off, and offers to sit with her while she waits for her father to come get her.
A minor character who serves as an antagonist.
- Flat Character: Exists to make fun of Lyric for her "hillbilly" roots. He contributes nothing to the overall plot, as Lyric more or less ignores him.
- Jerkass: Mocks Summer's mental state when she comes to watch Lyric's audition for the school musical.
- Kids Are Cruel
- Laser-Guided Karma: Lyric eventually gets her own back on him a bit when she shoves him away from Summer.
Lyric's music teacher.
- Cool Teacher: Is very sympathetic to Lyric and encourages her growing musical talent.
Jewel and Ethel
Summer's old friends from Glory Bottom
- Flat Character: They only appear in one scene and appear to be ordinary girls with snarky streaks.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Get snappish about the news that Summer and Lyric are moving, and Lyric assumes they're just jealous having to be stuck in Glory Bottom.
A town boy whose family owns half of the local A & P supermarket. Fancies Summer and wants to marry her.