Book Review: Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield
Number of Pages: 312
Date Published: June 30, 2016
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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?
It’s been a year since I last posted. Time flies when you’re busy doing other things, I guess? I don’t think I can manage to post book reviews weekly like before because of school, work, and everything else in between; but as always, if I do find a book that I think is really worth somebody’s time, or maybe a book that I’d advise a friend to stay away from, I would make it a point to write something about it.
Today I am reviewing Paper Butterflies. If you haven’t seen the cover or read even a portion of the blurb, you’d think, oh, another YA-contemporary, another romance? Even if you did see the blurb, you might still think that the story revolves around some dark theme plus romance or coming of age plus romance. I’m happy to say that you are… mistaken.
That’s me after every freaking chapter.
Paper Butterflies is not evil mixed with hearts and roses. It is 80% dark; it is awful; it is enraging; it is all you’ll ever want in realistic fiction. Paper Butterflies narrates the story of June who has suffered abuse from the hands of her stepmother and sister. June is often bullied at school. She is often lied to, made fun of, and misunderstood. She’s sort of like a butterfly trapped in a net… that is, until she meets Blister – Blister who accepts her for who she is, Blister who befriends her and opens her eyes to the not-so-dark side of the world – but happy endings are cliché and there’s more to June’s story than just this.
As for my reading experience – there was definitely a lot of cringing, some gritting of teeth, and the occasional closing of the book to take some deep breaths. A lot of times I just wanted to put this book down and dnf it, but I couldn’t, because despite making me feel so darn uncomfortable (an understatement, actually), it also made me curious and hopeful. Through it all, I was cursing and crying and blaming character after character, and all I could think of was ‘This is not fair. It just isn’t.’
You will eat,’ she says so quietly. ‘I’ve prepared this for you, so you will eat.’
“The lumps of wet meat are at my lips and she’s trying to force them in […] and I have to breathe. I have no choice. The food meant for dogs is forced into my mouth. I gag at the feel of it. I don’t want to swallow it, but my throat jolts and it slips down.”
But that’s exactly what makes it perfect – the fact that it shows how unfair life is and how ironically, it is our fear, our own emotion, that hinders us from making the important choices, the ones that are right, the ones that are difficult to make. Those are just minor themes. As you dig deeper, you’ll realize something more crucial and frighteningly accurate – that fear is created and nurtured by a victim of abuse and this nurturing is influenced not only by the abuser/s but by those who surround the victim and the victim herself.
I’m glad I didn’t stop reading. June’s entire experience was so disturbing but at the same time oh so moving from start to finish (although I admit, I did feel like I was gut punched multiple times).
And if you face every day with hope, then you’ve already won’
‘What if I don’t know what to hope for any more?’ I ask quietly.
‘Perhaps hope on its own is enough.’
I would gladly recommend Paper Butterflies to anyone who enjoys realistic fiction as much as I do. I could say more, but I’d rather have you dive blindly into it. Just have a pack of tissues ready. You’ll need it.