Wednesday, August 31, 2016
REVIEW: Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield
Paper Butterflies is June's story. And she tells the story in her own, flicking between chronological events as well as some time in the future where it feels like these two parts are distinctly a before and after but we're not sure what has happened in between. And right from the first page, I fell in love with June. I felt for her, sure. Lisa Heathfield dunks us immediately into a horrible situation as June has already started learning ways to survive her horrible childhood home with her father who isn't able to believe his new wife and stepdaughter can be so cruel and inhumane to June. We read of incident after incident of horrible child abuse against June. We witness numerous ways in which June faces acts of absolute cruelty. But June finds comfort and hope in little things, big things, her friendship with Blister, the boy in the woods. But with that hope can June find freedom?
As I said, June broke my heart. And Lisa Heathfield so skillfully dismantled my heart. I'm not always so 'happy' when authors choose to describe child abuse/cruelty in as much detail as Lisa Heathfield does in Paper Butterflies but at the same time I also appreciated the fact that the author describes psychological abuse as well as other forms of abuse other than a standard form of psychical abuse. I think that a lot of child abuse narratives focus too narrowly on one type of abuse that it was interesting to read of other forms.
I think one of the reasons this book made such an impact on me personally is how rage-inducing several elements are. Obviously that June suffers at the hands of those meant to protect her. But also how little help or support June has available to her. Her father doesn't or chooses not to see. But so do teachers and other adults in June's life that are meant to be there for her.
Another reason I loved this book so much are the relationships. Obviously June and Blister's is the emotional heart of the novel. Blister and his family provide a ray of light in June's life that was very much necessary. I half fell in love with them all as I was reading. But aside from this simple friendship I also found all of the other, more complicated relationships to be fascinating as well, particularly June and her step-sister.
Paper Butterflies is such an incredible book, one that will stay with me for a very long time. It's painful and beautiful all at the same time and if you're up for it, I say give this one a chance.