Ethology, the study of animal behavior, is a topic that is covered in the book.
Kya reads about ethology, including an article entitled "Sneaky Fuckers", and uses her knowledge to navigate the tricks and dating rituals of the local boys.
While she is away, Chase is found dead beneath the fire tower.
The sheriff, Ed, believes it to be a murder on the basis of there being no tracks or fingerprints, including Chase's, around the tower.
After she is left alone with Pa, he temporarily stops drinking and teaches her to fish and gives her his knapsack to hold her collections of shells and feathers.
Unable to read and write, Kya relies on painting with her Ma's old watercolors the birds or shores where she found the items. She recognizes it as having been sent from Ma, and she leaves it on the table for Pa to find.
The story follows two timelines that slowly intertwine.
After shopping for groceries one day, she reads in the paper of his engagement to another woman, and realizes that his promises of marriage were a ruse for sex. Tate, having graduated from college, visits Kya and is impressed by her expanded collection.
Kya's lawyer, Tom, debunks prosecuting arguments on the basis that there is no concrete evidence to convict Kya. Tate finds a hidden box of her old things and realizes that Kya wrote poems as Amanda Hamilton, the poet frequently quoted throughout the book.
Tate also finds, underneath the poems, the shell necklace Chase wore until he died.
However, she makes a friend in Tate Walker, an old friend of Jodie's, who sometimes fishes in the marsh.
When she gets lost one day, he leads her home in his boat.