Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Penelope "Lo" Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. But in the year since her brother's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous, obsession. When she discovers a beautiful antique butterfly figurine and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as Sapphire, Lo becomes fixated. As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues", with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld - a world much closer to home than she ever imagined.

Kate Ellison's debut novel is a tour de force thriller about a girl whose obsessive-compulsive collecting leads her down a dangerous path of secrets, mystery, and murder - where every clue she uncovers could be her last.

I first saw this title about a year ago during a webinar. I'd sort of forgotten about the book until I was weeding our Young Adult section in the library. I picked it up, read the description, and decided this would be my next read for our teen book club. I worried that I had yet again picked a dud as far as my teens were concerned, as they've explained that they don't like "realistic" fiction - to them, it's boring.

I don't know if any of them will ever pick this book up, but I highly recommended it to them, as it is anything but boring. OK, actually, my co-worker had to read my review, as I was on vacation during our last meeting. But still...I really like this! I thought the author did a wonderful job giving the reader a full picture of what Lo's daily life was like. I was really fascinated by her rituals - all the numbers, the tap tap tap, banana she MUST perform before she does certain things, etc. I think the best way it's described in the book was that doing these things made Lo "safe" - at least, in her mind. We as the reader know they don't really do anything, and at times, we can tell that Lo knows they don't either...but she can't seem to convince her brain of that.

Lo's parents, in my humble opinion, weren't very well fleshed out. We know her dad works a lot, and that her mom is still grieving the death of Oren, Lo's brother. Even though the book was told from Lo's point of view, I still think the author could have given us a bit better understanding of the parents. Also, at times I found it hard to believe that they wouldn't realize Lo had skipped out to do her sleuthing. But since they were rather preoccupied with their own dramas, maybe it's not all that crazy that they didn't notice her absence.

I found Flynt to be a very interesting character indeed, and I really liked him. I thought it was interesting that he seemed to be the only character that picked up on Lo's OCD behaviors and didn't judge her for them. In fact, he seemed to try to help her feel safer by recognizing that she needed things in threes (a "good" number). I wondered if the author was trying to say that it takes one non-traditional person to make another non-traditional person feel OK.

The mystery was decent, although I had pretty much figured out the whodunit early on. It was still exciting to watch Lo get closer and closer to figuring it out. The author, Kate Ellison, has a new book out titled Notes from Ghost Town, and yes, there's a copy in our library system. And yes, I think I'll be checking that one out, too.

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