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Book Review: Paper Butterflies (Lisa Heathfield)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 320

Release Date: June 30th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

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?

Review:

I loved Lisa Heathfield’s Seed last year, so when I saw people raving on Twitter about her new book I was desperate to get my hands on it. Massive thanks to Egmont Press Office Maggie Eckel for sending me a copy!

Seed was so incredibly I wasn’t really sure how Heathfield would follow it up, but Paper Butterflies is an absolute triumph. It’s heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. I’m not really a crier at books but this pushed me close!

June suffers horrific abuse at the hands of her step-mother, Kathleen. In front of June’s teachers and father she is all sweetness and caring and really appears to be on June’s side, but when they are alone she tortures her in the most horrendous ways, and even makes her own daughter, Megan, assist her. June finds escape in her new friend, Blister, but it’s not enough to escape for just a few hours. Unable to ask anyone for help, June soon finds herself pushed to breaking point.

The story is split into Before and After, though we’re not sure what event the After refers to. I had an inkling on what would happen and was mostly right (I’m getting pretty psychic at books these days) but it didn’t make it any less shocking and awful. The Before chapters move quickly through the years of June’s life, and we see her turn from a young, scared girl into a tortured young adult.

My heart went out to June completely. Kathleen’s version of abuse is truly awful. It’s not what you might think of when the word abuse is used: it’s not sexual, she doesn’t hit her. A lot of it is psychological and it all combines to break June down and make her feel like she isn’t even human. This isn’t an easy read and I can imagine this level of intensity isn’t for everyone.

There are moments of respite from this, for both June and the reader. June is happiest with Blister and his family, who give her hope and remind her that she is important and special. Heathfield’s beautiful writing also saves the reader from becoming completely depressed: her voice is unique and the descriptions are vivid and elegant. I just want to eat up all her words.

This is a heartbreaking read with just enough hope sprinkled in so I wasn’t reduced to a blubbering mess. Read this, and if you haven’t read Seed yet then go buy that as well. I loved both. I really hope she’s working on a Seed sequel now…

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