The Butterfly Clues
Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place--possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home. But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"--a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.
As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues," with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined--a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death.
The Butterfly Clues
Kate Ellison’s The Butterfly Clues is a YA mystery that I heard about through (I think) a newsletter. I honestly have no clue. Good books seem to fall in my lap these days. And shoutout for a cover that doesn’t feature a twenty-something in a purty dress!
So the main character, Lo, is left feeling guilty after her brother’s death, and now finds herself dealing with dysfunctional parents who don’t seem to care about her. She’s convinced herself that she’s ugly and she has no friends. Sounds like pretty standard YA fare, yes? But when you throw in the demanding presence of OCD, things get a bit more juicy.
I applaud Ellison for creating a unique heroine. I’ve never read a book about OCD before, and the author handled it so tastefully. Lo never made excuses for herself or tried to get over her OCD or anything like that. Her hoarding, thievery, and counting were all part of her. They were constant in the narrative but not jarring, and Ellison handled that aspect so tastefully and beautifully that I couldn’t have been more pleased.
For instance, in the first chapter when Lo has a compulsion to steal a figurine from somone’s porch:
”The whole world falls away, goes quiet, as I move closer, and closer, and closer. Inches. Centimeters. Millimeters. The moment we finally touch is slow, holy, thunderous, the single moment when everything makes sense.”
Isn’t that gorgeous?
Oh yeah, Ellison’s prose is to die for. It’s lyrical and full of imagery and all that good stuff I love. My Goodreads status updates were full of pull-outs from this book. (Sorry guys!)
And because I can’t help myself, I’ll share just one more:
”I don’t know how I get outside, but, suddenly, I am—shaking, choking. I fall into the cold wet grass and dirt and dark, door swinging close behind me. The world is swinging, loose and wild.
Moon huge. Breathe heavy.”
Okay, I’ll stop.
Anyway, the mystery part itself was fairly well done. Now it was slightly predictible, but the above-mentioned things negated that for me. I really like the idea of a teenage girl beating the police at their own game. (As an aside, if you’ve ever seen the movie Brick, which I totally recommend, The Butterfly Clues is similar to that). I wasn’t surprised by any of the major plot twists, but I didn’t see them coming a long way off—more like a few pages before they happened.
Oh, and, of course, it couldn’t be YA without some romance. And a love triangle. I didn’t actually mind the love triangle for once, as I think Ellison handled it well—Lo was never in some quandry over which guy to choose. Flynt, Lo’s love interest, was fun and unique and interesting (troubled past, nice smile, you know, boy-next-door with flair). I even liked the corny romantic ending because it fit so well with the rest of the story.
And there was also one very delicious scene at Flynt’s “house,” on the couch, that involved sketching and kissing… Think Titanic but less…Leo DiCaprio.
I really really liked The Butterfly Clues. Lo was a unique and likable protagonist, Ellison’s prose was gorgeous, and the story was engaging and had a nice resolution. I’m trying to go over the other books I’ve read this year, but I think this is my favorite 2012 YA debut so far!
A uniquely wonderful thriller!
How on earth do I explain to you how much I loved The Butterfly Clues? It seems like anything I say just won't be enough. There is a mystery at it's core, and one that is beautifully done. I had no idea the entire time where the story line was ultimately taking me. However it's so much more than that. Layered on top of it all is the story of a girl who is looking for redemption, the inability to let go of the past, and the deep want to face the future head on. This book is amazing.
Before I dive into the meat of why this story blew me away, I feel it only fair to tell you about our main character. Lo isn't your normal teenage protagonist. Her heart was broken by her brother's death and she's been struggling to pick up the pieces ever since. Even though Lo's heart is in the right place, her guilt has caused her to pick up OCD tendencies. These show a lot in the story line. I'm warning you because they can be very disconcerting and distracting. Following a character who is constantly muttering tap tap tap banana and counting random items can be difficult. However I will promise you that if you can overlook the little things, and focus on the person that Lo is under all of this, you'll fall in love.
Now for the good part. The mystery. Lo finds herself inexplicably drawn to certain items, and locations. It is this habit that lands her in the middle of a murder investigation. I won't go into too much detail because, despite how difficult this plot is to figure out early on, I dislike spoilers. What I will say is that Kate Ellison weaves a story that will pull you in deeply. The setting of Neverland is amazing. Kids go here to hide, to disappear, and for Lo that is the attraction. There she can be whatever she wants. It is the anonymity of it all that allows her dive deeper and deeper into the mystery, and ultimately into danger. As I said, this part is so well done! Once the story takes off there isn't a moment to breathe, and I loved every minute of it.
I'll quit rambling and get straight to the point. Lo's story is fascinating. I know that some readers might be put off by her OCD tendencies but I'll tell you honestly, it wouldn't be the same story without them. Imagine being unable to run away from danger because you had to your count steps. Or being so filled with the need to take something, or go somewhere, that you put your well being at stake for it. Lo is special, and it is her overall character that really makes this book. Even if it doesn't sound like something you'd normally read, give The Butterfly Clues a chance. I loved it! I hope you will too.