‘Paper Butterflies’ by Lisa Heathfield

★★★★★/5 stars

Published by Electric Monkey!

June’s life at home is an unhappy one. Living with her dad, stepmum Kathleen, and stepsister Megan, June is subject to countless acts of abuse day in and day out as she grows up, alone and afraid to confide in her dad in case he, like everyone else, doesn’t believe her. But then she stumbles across three trailers as she rides her new bike into the woods and it is there that she meets Blister. Blister who makes his very own paper creations; Blister who, more or less, starts to give her something to live for. So June starts hoping, hoping that one day she’ll be free to fly away just like one of Blister’s paper butterflies.

I need to preface this review by first saying that I’m not a huge crier. Generally you won’t find me absolutely sobbing over a book or film. It’s not that I don’t cry at other things (because, trust me, I do). I’m not emotionally inept or anything. It’s just when it comes to reading a particularly sad book, or watching a particularly emotional film or TV show, I don’t usually find it within me to go beyond having the glisten over my eyes. I well up, sure. But full on tears streaming down my face like The Fray likes to sing about in that horrendously sad song? Nope, not a usual occurrence with this girl. And I’m not exactly sure what it says about me that I didn’t cry over ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ but did cry when I first watched ‘Marley & Me’… Anyway. Not a crier of books.

All that being said, holy mother of God did Lisa Heathfield make me absolutely ball my eyes out at her glorious, wonderful book, ‘Paper Butterflies’. I should have known. I should have been prepared with tissues and tissues and, yes, you’ve guessed it, more tissues. The people of Twitter warned me I would, but I didn’t think anything of it with my unusual armour against words proper, proper physically hurting me. (Disclaimer: I may not always cry at books/films/TV shows, but that doesn’t mean I don’t empathise completely with characters and their journeys. My pain just doesn’t always physically translate to actual tears on my actual face.)

It is noteworthy, then, that Lisa managed to make me cry, not only at that monumental, completely unexpected plot twist at the end (oh my god, oh my god!), but from the very first page when we initially bear witness to Kathleen’s horrific abuse towards her stepdaughter, June. Interwoven through all the heartache, is the thread of Blister and June’s reassuring and hope-filled relationship, which truly is a force to be reckoned with when push comes to an even more brutal shove.

Although this review comes nearly two months after I originally finished ‘Paper Butterflies’, I still find myself thinking. Thinking about June, about her dad who let her down, and about the possibility of redemption. And although, if I’m honest, I think I quite like that I don’t entirely know how things wrap up for the lovely, deserving June, I really hope her life turned around for the better. ‘Paper Butterflies’ is haunting in its scarily realistic depiction of child abuse and finding justice in a world that sometimes seems to be only completely dark and unfair.

Currently listening to #2

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