Paper Butterflies

Paper Butterflies

Lisa Heathfield (author)  Electric Monkey (publisher)

Haunting and beautifully written, ‘Paper Butterflies’ is a coming-of-age story seen through the eyes of June, a girl trapped in a desperate cycle of abuse.  Her story had me gripped from its first sentence to its very last.

I am reluctant to say too much about the plot in fear of reducing its impact for those yet to read it.  The very fact that so many elements of the plot are unexpected and unimaginable makes it such a striking story.  The chapters are split into ‘Before’ and ‘After’: before and after a significant event in June’s life.  Its plot is shocking and, at times, harrowing.

The horrific acts that June endures in the ten years ‘before’ had me desperately hoping that she would find the strength to ask for help, that someone would notice.  But the ‘after’ which was scattered throughout the ‘before’ sections gave some insight into what June’s life would become.  Through these glimpses, it appeared that the things I had so wished for June would not come to fruition.

 In darkest moments of June’s childhood, it is difficult to imagine how she could find a single moment of happiness and have any hope for her future life.  But she does.  Her hope and happiness come wrapped up in the form of a boy, Blister, who she encounters by chance in the woods.  He starts as a curiosity but quickly becomes a friend, a protector and her saviour.  Through simply being himself, welcoming her into his family, showing her kindness, value and love, he rescues her from the atrocities she faces on a daily basis.  However, his protection can only be temporary, for when she leaves him and returns home, the realities of her life come crashing down around her.

Paper Butterflies is a must read - a real page-turner - but absolutely heart-breaking.  Be prepared! Arm yourself with cushions, tissues and maybe even some chocolate.  I found shouting at the book helped a little.

‘I’ve learnt that if you’re careful, you can hold a butterfly in your hand. And that even if it’s been trapped, frightened, in a jar, it has a chance to survive. Because a butterfly with a broken wing can still fly.’