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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
Lo (short for Penelope), taps, counts, and believes in the power of numbers, not because she chooses to, but because she has to. She survives life by just getting by and trying to blend in, not letting many people know the true nature of her needs and compulsions. When a young stripper is murdered right in front of Lo, she feels a connection to the girl and a compulsion to find the murderer. Along her path, she can't help but think of her own brother who succumbed to drugs on the very streets the stripper, Sapphire, met her grizzly end.
As Lo gets deeper into the case, she meets a young homeless guy named Flynt who agrees to help her traverse the mean streets of Neverland. She finds herself in the crosshairs of the killer and despite the warnings and attacks on other people involved in Sapphire's life, Lo can't stop herself from finding redemption for the stripper she never met. She knows there is more to the story than the police care to investigate, and she refuses to stop hunting until she finds the truth. What she fails to recognize, however, is that the people involved will do anything to keep the truth from coming to the surface.
I struggled with this book a little at the beginning. Vital information was withheld from the reader until a good 1/3 of the way through the book, like what was going on with her brother and her compulsions. I don't think all of it needed to be kept so secret for as long as it did since it was vital to the character development of Lo and the understanding of the purpose behind the story. That being said, once I understood this important background information, the story became really interesting. It opened up, and I was able to get invested in Lo's quirky character. The intertwined story of Lo's brother and Sapphire was one that adds something unique and wonderful to the mystery. It truly is the story of a girl who nobody understands finding someone who doesn't care why she is different but loves her differences unconditionally.
This is a mature story not for graphic sexual content (although Sapphire is a stripper and Lo goes to the strip club a few times to investigate). I think it is a mature book due to the complexity of Lo's character and how she interacts with the people in her life and the world around her. An immature reader will lose themselves in her eccentricities and not get to the heart of a girl with a disorder she cannot control. Also, the confusion at the beginning of the story might lose a weaker reader where a strong reader could barrel through it in order to get to the heart of this interesting story. I really loved Ellison's characters and look forward to seeing more from her. But next time, it would be great if she could give us a little more up front so all kinds of readers can enjoy her story!