Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley on a read to review basis. In no way does this affect the contents of my review. You can check out my review policy here.
June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one – and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net.
But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom . . . But at what price?
Lisa Heathfield is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Her second book, about the consequences and effects of child abuse, is one of the most punch-you-in-the-stomach-powerful pieces of literature I’ve read this year.
I will warn you: This book does not make for comfortable reading. There were a few points where I had to pop the book down for a second or two before continuing, because it made me want to cry. The systematic, long-term abuse that June receives at the hands of her stepmother is cruel, manipulative, confidence shattering and utterly devastating. At times, it broke my heart. I commend Heathfield for being able to draw such an honest reaction out me. Child abuse is a very real, very emotive issue and the strength of this book lies in her ability to present the subject matter in a totally unflinching light.
This is the sort of book that lives and dies by it’s character development, and for me, the characters are nuanced and compelling. June’s teachers, the school nurse, the kids in the playground and Blister’s large and messy family all have their parts to play in June’s life and abuse, and Heathfield uses them all to create a complex and suffocating situation. Blister and his family are written with warmth, which contrasts starkly to the way that June’s home life is portrayed. Her stepmother, Kathleen, is drawn with immense complexity, and her character, coupled with June’s emotionally blind father and stepsister allow the reader to explore themes of forgiveness, blame and redemption.
The story unfolds solely from June’s perspective, but the story flits between ‘before’ and ‘after’ which adds a really compelling element of mystery to the book. Lisa Heathfield uses this set up to deliver a masterful twist towards the ending of the book, which completely changed the outcome of the book and the way that I had interpreted the ‘after’ parts of the story. Coupled with strong pacing and sharply poetic prose, I couldn’t put it down. I sacrificed at least two hours of sleep for this book, and you can trust me when I say that I don’t do that for many books (or even people) on a work night.
Paper Butterflies left me feeling utterly drained, but I’m glad for it. I don’t think I’ve read a YA book about child abuse, and although it left me with a lump in my throat, it made me think about the children who suffer and may never seek the help that they desperately need. This book could open the floodgates and save someone’s life. Recommend it far and wide.
- Author: Lisa Heathfield
- Publication Date: 30th June 2016
- Publisher: Electric Monkey
- Pages: 320
- Rating: 5/5
- In short: Sharp, raw and painfully important.