The Butterfly Clues Paperback – Jan 8 2013
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* “Fascinating. Ellison has the art of page-turning down flat, and readers will be swept up by both the terror—and the romance.”
—Booklist Starred Review
*“This book casts a spell over its readers.”—SLJ Starred Review
“An engaging mystery starring a teen girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder. A pleasing mix of realism, tension, intrigue and romance.”
“ . . . a strong, twisty thriller of a debut . . . [with] a complex and memorable heroine.”—Publishers Weekly
“Lo’s relationship with the mysterious street boy who calls himself Flynt, layered on top of her almost supernatural loneliness and helpless compulsions, gives the novel an otherworldly quality.”—VOYA
“A debut worth picking up. Stark and realistic.”—RTBooks
“Poignant and haunting. A gorgeously written debut.”—Lynn Weingarten, author of Wherever Nina Lies and The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers
“A clever mystery, an unlikely romance, an edge-of-your-seat thriller and one of the most wonderful books I’ve read. Here’s the only clue you need—read this book and be amazed.”
—Charles Benoit, author of You and Fall from Grace
“With startling insights, lyrical prose, and relentless tension, Butterfly Clues is a courageous, extraordinary first novel.”—Heidi Ayarbe, IRA-winning author of Freeze Frame
“A stunning and intricately woven debut novel.”—The Princess of Storyland
“A heartfelt mystery with a great, intrepid lead character.” —Jessie, bibliophile... anonymous
“I could not put it down simply because of the sheer beauty of [Kate Ellison's] writing.
—Tia, The Undead Unicorn
“The plot is tightly wound and the story is very compelling. If you are looking for a good mystery, I highly recommend this one.”—Booktwirps
“Extremely refreshing and interesting and honestly, really really really good.”
—Valen, The Readers Heartstring
“How on earth do I explain to you how much I loved The Butterfly Clues? It seems like anything I say just won't be enough. This book is amazing.”—Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Kate Ellison trained as an actor in Chicago and has walked across the entire country of Spain. She is a painter and jewelry-maker. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Butterfly Clues was her first novel. You can visit her online at www.kateellison.com.
Top Customer Reviews
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
★★★★★ 5 Stars
I absolutely loved this book. I can't even explain why I loved it as much as I do. It has a lot of things I usually dislike - hipster male love interest, so-edgy female MC, family torn apart by A Mysterious Tragedy...
But it managed to take every one of those things and make them into something new and wonderful. Take our main character, Penelope "Lo" Marin. She has OCD. And I'm not an expert on OCD, but I really could feel how she struggled with her illness in this book, and it was a good thing. Some other reviewers found it annoying and distracting. I did too, actually. Sometimes, I just wanted to scream at her. But I think that made this book so much better.
Mental illness IS annoying, and difficult, and distracting. The problem with so many books that portray mentally ill characters is that it's not realistic. It's a cute quirk instead of a sometimes all encompassing struggle. I'm thankful to see some honesty. There is one scene in Lo's bedroom with her father near the end that gave me chills and made me feel sick. Not many authors can pull you into the mind of a mentally ill person as well as this author does!
Her mother's depression is handled equally well. There is no glamour. There is no moment where she just breaks away from it, where Lo shakes her and suddenly it's okay. Plus, I always like books where both parents are alive, because parent's are notoriously known to 'get in the way' of the story, so usually we writers just get rid of them ;)
Flynt (hipster main male interest) is everything I usually hate, but turned into someone I actually liked reading about.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Here's the thing: I don't choose to take things. I have to. I've always had to do certain things, since the day I turned seven and began to insist that I wanted to stray six. I didn't know why, but seven felt off, somehow, made me feel like the world was tilting too much to one side. It wasn't so bad at first. Just little things--like the way the food looked on my plate, or needing to eat peas before chicken, or needing to put the left shoe on before the right. I started taking little things---a toothbrush or a candy bar from a store, discarded ticket stubs from the movie theater, stickers from the kids at school.
"But since Oren disappeared, it has gotten worse. A lot worse. Now, when the urge comes on, it's like this superhuman force that grips my body and won't let go until I have the thing I've spotted, the thing I need. And it's not the taking or the stealing I crave, it's the having and the keeping. Forever. With me. Safe."
When The Butterfly Clues begins, Lo is in the throes of her disorder. Although the narrative hints that her brother's, Oren's, disappearance over a year ago precipitated her condition into manifesting as full blown kleptomania and hoarding, the reader is kept in suspense as to what exactly happened. Only the aftermath is apparent: a stressed out, absent father; a heavily sedated mother; and Lo, a daughter left helpless and alone in the grip of her own demons. The exposition is subtly and expertly revealed, along with the parallel story of who killed Sapphire.
Mirroring Lo's free fall into her obsessive-compulsive ways is her descent into the underworld of drug addicts, runaways, thieves, and strip clubs called "Neverland." Ellison balances its allure, in the form of a free spirit, Flynt, with its dangers, such as Sapphire's murder. I was intrigued with Lo's exploration of Neverland and charmed by Flynt; however, I was frustrated by how Ellison depicted Lo's clumsy and unrealistic investigation of the murder, which involved posing (while underage) as a stripper in a nightclub, interrogating other strippers, finding evidence in plain view which the cops apparently did not locate. I knew who the killer was the moment he/she came on the scene.
As a mystery/thriller, The Butterfly Clues, was not very compelling; it fares better as a psychological portrait of a teenage girl trying to cope with tragedy while battling OCD.
It's so rare to find a protagonist who isn't just weird-yet-still-endearing, but actually, truly, probably..I don't want to say crazy, but maybe just that their world doesn't make sense to us. We rarely read a book from the point of view of someone who thinks so differently. And The Butterfly Clues was just that - I couldn't necessarily understand Lo's sense of purpose in the collection of objects, but I was able to emphasize with her overall.
And the loss of her brother and her family's way of dealing with the grief - it broke me. Lo's treatment of her brother's room and her dad's reactions...I just thought The Butterfly Clues was such an interesting look at the grieving process and so heartbreaking.
Other than Lo, one of the main reasons The Butterfly Clues appealed to me is because I am such a huge fan of the mystery-solving-sleuthing teens. I love a good teen mystery - I must have read a billion and twelve Nancy Drew as a teenager book. And The Butterfly Clues? Has a damn good mystery, if I do say so myself. I did not solve it AT ALL (except for one teeny tiny thing I guessed at) and rather than feeling stupid, I was sucked in - I had to know who killed Sapphire, I had to know how Lo figured it out, etc.
The writing, also, was beautiful. Kate Ellison's writing really allowed us to get inside Lo's head and even though I don't have the same urges as her, the way she was written made her so real.
Overall, I loved The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison. I thought it was a beautifully written story with an intriguing mystery and I loved trying to solve it with Lo.
The story straddles the world between realism and something with a touch of the unseen. At some point you get the impression that her OCD actually gives her some insight into things she couldn't possibly know otherwise. Her romance with Flynt, the street artist, was sweet and unusual, much like their characters. Within the element of the paranormal, is the story of Lo's family and their deep and intense sadness. I think that's what saved the book for me. As she is taking huge risks to solve this mystery, her mother is non-functional and her dad is trying very hard to keep the family together in some way. Their grief is intense and you definitely get the sense that Lo wishes, more than anything, that things could go back to the way they were before everything fell apart. The ending was bittersweet and realistic, which really worked well with the rest of the story. I give Kate Ellison a lot of credit for depicting Lo's OCD and her powerlessness against it in a very realistic and sympathetic way.
Penelope "Lo" Marin is unlike anyone you've met before. She has a severe case of OCD that gets worse under stress. So you can only imagine how much more interesting things get when she becomes obsessed with a murder of a girl she doesn't know and puts herself right in the path of a murderer. I've got mixed feelings about Lo. Her OCD fascinated me but I had a hard time figuring out how I felt about it. Half of the time, it really felt like an illiness and I want her to get help. There are times in the story where it literally hinders her health and makes her life terrible. Not to mention, when people actually shine light on what she's doing, it was sort of horrifiying to me. At the same time, I liked some of her rituals and loved how she could find beauty in mundane things. I feel like "Lo" wouldn't be herself without them. I guess for me, I wish I knew she was one her way to getting a little bit better by the end of the book. The harmless ones could stay but some of her OCD is really unhealthy and as a reader who was vested in her future, I wanted to know she was on her way to getting better.
Lo finds out about Sapphire's murder by accidently stumbling on her home when the murder is occurring. Sapphire is a stripper in a place called Neverland. Neverland is a place where runaways gather and art runs rampant in the streets. Basically, it's all run down buildings, abandoned streets and homeless kids and young adults. This place is bursting with the truly dark like strip clubs, drug users and such with the incredibly beautiful like random treasure finds and hidden beauty. It was a character in and of itself and I loved every description about it. From the birdfeeder bowl where all of Neverland's notes are passed to the little place called "M" where people came to make art, everything about Neverland was interesting. I also really liked the people there.
The author did an awesome of contrasting not only the places where Lo goes (her house in the safe suburbs with the seedy streets of Neverland) but the people as well. For instance, at school there is Jeremy who has a thing for Lo even though he knows about some of her habits. In Neverland there is Flynt who also knows and accepts Lo's habits. I really enjoyed Lo's relationship with Flynt and felt it added a breathe of fresh air to the story.
Ellison's writing was definitely beautiful but it did feel a bit dense at times. I found my eyes skipping over paragraphs, especially when they were overly detailed accounts of the past with Lo's brother. I just felt like some of the details were unneed and really slowed the pace of the story. I did love the murder mystery aspect of ths novel. I love a good clue novel and how Lo could use items to bring herself closer to Sapphire. It made for an interesting angle to a relatively straightforward plot. I will say that I wish there were a few more twists and turns. I did guess who several of the characters were right away--that is to say I knew who the murder was and the identity of someone in Sapphire's past as well. I'm not sure if this is a credit to the writer who did a great job with the clues or whether it could have been buried a little better.
I think the unique places and people in The Butterfly Clues outweighs the few hiccups it has. Though the writing does slow the pace, the fascinating characters and wildly imaginative world more than make up for it and work to suck the reader in. After added up the clues, my best theory is if you are into mysteries and something a little topsy-turvy, The Butterfly Clues is definitely for you!