I firstly want to thank Lisa Heathfield for not only taking the time to look on my JustGiving page, but also sponsoring me for my Skydive, when she doesn’t even know me. It was perhaps one of the most selfless, kindest things I have experienced and I was really touched. It makes sense that Lisa is such a lovely person herself, because her books are so touching, so beautiful and emotional, with such lovable characters which could only have come from such a warm-hearted person. I only recently read Seed, and adored it so I was begging for a copy of Paper Butterflies – thank you to Egmont for sending me a copy!
“June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one – and a secret one. Not even her father knows about it. She’s trapped like a butterfly in a net.
But then she meets Blister, a boy in the woods. And in him, June recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom . . . but at what price?”
Paper Butterflies almost read like a modern day Cinderella, but harsher, and without the happy ending. There was the evil-stepmother, the ‘ugly’ sister and Prince who whisked her away for a while. It was sweet and beautiful, but at the same time a horrifically accurate depiction of the kind of abuse children go through, and the racism that a poor innocent child can experience. The cruelty that June has to bear was hard to read at times, and really uncomfortable. But I think it’s incredibly important that it made me feel this way. I’m white, I grew up in an incredibly white area and attended a similarly 90% white all-girls school – there wasn’t a black girl in my class though there were a few from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, China etc. I’ve been sheltered from any kind of racism. I never saw any growing up, skin colour never mattered in school , so it still shocks me how bad some people can be – any book that opens my eyes and makes me understand it is a good one in my opinion.
The book seem to take on an almost dream-like quality. Maybe it was the fact that we were looking into the past, but Lisa writes with such a light touch that everything feels almost like a fairytale, which contrasts completely with the actual content of what she is writing about. The lack of consistency in the length of chapters, how often we saw a moment from the present and no definite time period covered was something that really drew me into the book – I loved the mystery, the vagueness, as it kept me reading, wondering and it made it a book which can apply to any time period. This book could be set in the 1920s, or 1950s, with the attitude to race and the child abuse. Unfortunately it could also be set today. I just hope one day, it will become a book that can only be set in the past and someone will pick up this book and think ‘God, I can’t imagine a black person, or anyone, being treated like that today.’
I loved the relationship between Blister and June, it was so young and innocent, and reminded me of what it was like to be that age and discover a friendship, or romance with a boy for the first time. I also really liked the character of Megan. A complex, troubled and almost equally pitiable character and it hurt to watch both Megan and June try and navigate their friendship, or relationship which was muddied by their mother/step-mother.
I read it in one sitting, and came away feeling a little empty, like I didn’t know how to feel. The combination of the horror of June’s life, with her sweet, innocent personality just made it hard to take in, and leaves you really thinking about what you’ve read. Add in the shock twist at the end and you really are left feeling completely knocked back.
I wish it didn’t say that this book was like We Were Liars. Because if you’ve read We Were Liars, you expect the twist of Paper Butterflies, you kind of know what’s happened and it takes away the shock ending. It just gave a little bit too much away for me. I’m going to be honest and say that I preferred Seed to Paper Butterflies, just because I felt like I could relate to the age more easily as they were older. This takes nothing away from how fantastic, painful, important and brilliantly written Paper Butterflies is. Lisa Heathfield has a way of writing tragedy with such beauty that it tears at your soul, with characters that stay in your heart long after the final page.
Paper Butterflies is out on 30th June from Egmont, £7.99.