What’s it all about?:
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?
What did I think?:
One of the people I think knows me and my reading tastes very well is my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. She often shoves books into my hands, begging me to prioritise it on my next Chrissi Cupboard Month (which I do twice a year) and over the years, I’ve learned to listen. I know that this book deeply affected her and she warned me it might destroy me also. Yet I still wasn’t prepared. I read parts of this book one-handed as I couldn’t help but put my other hand over my mouth in disgust, in disbelief and indeed, in terror for what our main character June, suffers in her life and how it affects her going forward as a young adult. It’s a horrific story with trigger warnings for physical and emotional abuse and I hesitate to say I enjoyed it but it was one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time.
This is the story of June, a mixed race young girl who lives with her white father, his new wife, Kathleen and her daughter Megan and attends a predominantly white school. June’s mother had died some years earlier and she is still struggling to cope with the grief from her loss but unfortunately, has bigger problems to deal with. This encompasses feeling like a complete outsider in her own family, feeling neglected, ugly, insignificant, unimportant and trying to cope with the way that her voice is always quietened and never allowed to be heard. June is stuck in a terrible situation with an archetypal evil stepmother and a wicked stepsister who becomes an accomplice in her mother’s crimes and her situation is not helped by a hapless, blind father who refuses to see what is right in front of his nose. Her only joy in life comes from a new friend she meets, Blister who begins to make her feel that her own self-worth is something that should never be beaten down or compromised.
I don’t really want to say too much about the plot as always, this book is something you just have to discover for yourself. It broke my heart over and over again in different ways and made me so furious as June continues to suffer and her suffering is constantly ignored by the people who are supposed to be there to protect you. Of course, I thank my lucky stars that I have never been in these horrific circumstances but I have had a few personal experiences with bullies when I told someone “in charge,” what was happening to me and I was either ignored or not believed and it’s a very emotional, almost life-changing thing to go through. There’s a few scenes in particular in Paper Butterflies that were almost too difficult to read, are still vivid in my mind and occasionally I had to put down the book for a little break as it just got overly sickening and I was close to tears. As I mentioned before, this is an intense and powerful read and it reminded me somewhat of A Little Life in its brutal honesty. It’s strange to say, this was a gut-wrenching, harrowing read but it’s one that I simply have to give the “big five,” as I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):