Title: Paper Butterflies
Author: Lisa Heathfield
Publisher Information: Carolrhoda Lab, October 2017
Source: Received an ARC through Edelweiss, Kindle
Synopsis: June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one-and a secret one. Not even her dad knows the truth, and she can’t find the words to tell anyone else. She’s trapped like a butterfly in a net. Then June meets Blister, a boy from a large, loving, chaotic family. In him, she finds a glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away. Because she deserves her freedom. Doesn’t she?
Sometimes you finish a book and you put it down but it doesn’t leave you. It stays with you, feeling just as heavy and when you are physically holding something in your hands, and you try to go on about your day knowing that it was just a book, it wasn’t real. I finished this book a day ago, yet I still feel as if I am holding June in my hands and I am just as desperate to reach out to her.
Paper Butterflies follows June, a young girl who as soon as the book opens is being abused by her stepmother. We watch her board the bus for school and get a glimpse of the bullying that is going on there as well. My heart broke in the first chapter, seeing this young girl searching for someone to help her, to see through the outside and rescue her. We learn that her mother died a few years ago, her dad married now to a woman with her own daughter. We also learn that she is racially mixed, her mother being black and her father white. I am guessing by the tone of the novel that where June lives being of mixed ethnicity is not very common, so I feel this helps to demonstrate how alone she feels.
Her stepmother regularly abuses June through various means, without her father knowing. In the presence of other adults, her stepmother seems caring and concerned for June, yet once alone, it changes very quickly. June is left to feel isolated and afraid that if she were to try and tell the truth that no one would believe her.
School and home are both places of torment for her, and luckily she stumbles across Blister one day. Blister is a home schooled boy who is artistic and he shows June his art that he makes out of paper. The two quickly become friends and Blister and his family become June’s only place of feeling accepted.
My goodness, this book. It seriously broke my heart from the very beginning and didn’t stop squeezing it long after the book had ended. It is unforgiving and raw with the emotions and you want nothing more than this young girl to find some source of happiness. While I was able to comfortably sit in my home, reading this as fiction, I couldn’t help but feel that there were far too many who may relate to June and her struggles. I think it really stresses the importance of seeing signs instead of just seeing what we want to see.
I wouldn’t recommend this for younger readers, even though there are no mentions of sex or bad language. The subject matter is deep and troubling, and I feel it would be better served with a mature reader. I very much loved this book as it does what I feel any great, well written novel does – stays with the reader after the book is put down. I have a feeling that June will be with me for quite some time and I promise to take care of her.
Recommended for: Sixteen and up
Rating: 4 stars