Thursday 15 December 2016


Title: Paper Butterflies
Author: Lisa Heathfield
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Release Date: 30th June 2016

BLURB 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?


I have read another title by this author, Seed which I thoroughly enjoyed and found very interesting, yet different to my normal chosen genre. So when I saw this one I knew I wanted to read it. After finding myself in a bit of a reading rut, having a dilemma not knowing what to read next, I flicked through some older books on my kindle/tablet. I decided to read a few pages of this book, and I'm glad I did as I immediately felt drawn in and wanted to know more about the main character June.
The cover is a close up image of the main character of this at time harrowing book. June is mixed race, so is darker skinned and in looks favours her late mother, rather than her "Mr Average" father. The title of the book is displayed prominently on the book along with the byline of "Can you fly with broken wings?" which so aptly fits this young innocent girl, who has to adapt to the loss of her mother, a "new mum" being brought in by her father and a step sister too. I can't honestly say I love the cover and that's what attracted me to the book as it wasn't. I was compelled to read the book because of the blurb.
I think I could perhaps describe this book as disturbing in certain sections, the awful, vindictive abuse poor June has to put up with from her step mother whilst still plainly distraught with grief from the loss of her own mother. June's mother drowned in a nearby river whilst swimming. . . or did she? Could it be that June's mother discovered something about her husband that drove her to feel unable to carry on and take her own life, leaving him and their daughter behind. Kathleen is the new mother June's father brings into the family home along with her own daughter Megan. Kathleen take the role as wicked step mother to the extreme, and Megan seems to be the evil step sister too. The things Kathleen does to June range from plain spiteful to being horrific. From forcing so much fluid down a young June, denying her use of the toilet before school therefore causing June to wet herself on the bus. Kathleen also forces June to eat large portions of stodgy food causing the young teen to gain weight. Kathleen manages to do all of this without June's father ever noticing anything at all. Kathleen also coerces her own daughter Megan, who is a year younger than Kathleen to help her carry out the spiteful acts, and vicious attacks on June. To make things even worse June is also bullied at school for being different to the norm. The other children do not attempt to take June under their wing to offer solace or any comfort at all,they just belittle her, calling her names, saying she smells and in one particular incident being racially abusive. For the most part the adults at the school are either ignorant or choose not to see what the increasingly isolated June is going through. there are many occasions where June almost tells an adult exactly what is going on in her home. ...there are also occasions where she hints quite heavily at being unhappy at home but sadly she is neither heard nor seen until its far too late.
The one bright light in Junes life is her friend Blister. I loved Blister as a character, and how he came by his nickname too. Blister comes from a large family, his parents adopt children and are immediately welcoming to June. It is with the Wick's family that June has glimpses of what a real loving family should be like. How parents are supposed to react with and around their children. Though the Wick's family don't have lots of money they have love and are more than willing to share that with June whenever she can escape from her own home of torture. The Wicks children don't attend main stream school, they are home schooled by Mr & Mrs Wicks, and June so longs to be taught this way, to escape her poor school life. Another safe haven for June is the abandoned caravans, where she first met Blister. They soon become firm friends, supporting each other. Blister has a brother called Tom who is ill and well his health is slowly deteriorating. June knows this and enjoys helping Mrs Wick's, Blister and his family care for Tom. June keeps Blister and the rest of the Wicks family a secret as long as she possibly can because Kathleen and Megan spoil everything for her. June has a box hidden in her bedroom containing items that are precious to her, some origami Blister has done for her, a treasured scarf that belonged to her mother, that if she closes her eyes tightly and sniffs it still smells of her too. So she can pretend for a few stolen seconds that her mum is still with her. It is the destruction of this hidden box and its beloved contents that finally pushes June to retaliate. Sadly that first, small act of vengeance, has accidental, tragic consequences for June. Finally someone has to take notice of June, but it's not necessarily what you can say in a good way. However June at last has someone to talk to, a Reverend, ultimately someone who believes her. As she gains the Reverend and the final release of speaking about the horror of both her home and school life, it means she loses the unrestricted access to her best friend and now boy friend Blister. June had confided in Blister some of the awful acts Kathleen and Megan had done to her. The Wicks family learn the whole story, and though found guilty and locked away they still stand firmly by June whenever and however they can. 
I loved the characters of June and Blister, I so wanted a happily ever after for them. One of my "Thoughts Whilst Reading" comments was mainly centered on the character of June and was "What an awful life June is having. It's like June is more than one person. She loves alone time with her father yet doesn't tell him how awful Kathleen n Megan treat her. She is bullied at home and at school. June is 'more herself ' with Blister but she doesn't tell him the true horror of her treatment at home....but knows some of what happens at home, and most of what happens at school."This book however is much more realistic, and incidents occur, punishments have to be given out and accepted. During the interactions between June and an older woman called Mickey who is featured in the latter section of the book both crushed my heart, took my breath and made the tears roll down my cheeks all at the same time.
This book is written from the prospective of June, from "Before" when she is a young child having lost her mother, getting used to a new family dynamic when her father brings in a new mum and sister, and from "After" when she is a young woman finally revealing the true horror of her life to a Reverend. I have to say I found this book amazingly written, it didn't just make me tear up, I really cried and finally sobbed at the ending. Then at the very end of the book there is a small "letter" style chapter from the point of view of Blister. . . and just as he gave June hope and a reason to go on, he gives the reader that sliver of hope, that chink of a light at the end of the tunnel.
I could go on and on about this book, it horrified me! At times I was internally shouting and screaming "How can you not realise how unhappy this girl is?" at some of the adults June is around. I also had strong feelings towards June's father. . ."Why couldn't he see how upset his daughter was?" Then something is revealed about his relationship with Kathleen that made me wonder. . .maybe he can see how upset June is but he doesn't want to handle it. . .preferring to turn a blind eye and deaf ear. Wanting to play happy families with Kathleen and Megan. At times during the book I admit I hated Megan, not just for what she did to June, but the fact she kept silent about it, and never seemed to even attempt to comfort June. Then during a conversation between an older June and Megan, she reveals the reasons for her behaviour, whilst not making her actions forgivable, they do explain them a little. At the very end of the book June totally isolates herself from those that love and desperately want to support her, she also forgives those that quite literally made her life a living hell, yet seems unable to forgive herself. The scene where she is given a photograph which shows the people supporting her and petitioning for her totally broke me. I had to stop reading, calm myself, then continue to the end of the book. 
This book is an amazingly powerful, highly emotional, at times crushing, disturbing but also a very thought provoking book. Lisa Heathfield is an amazing, talented author and I will once again be on the look out for any other books by her.

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