Friday, January 27, 2012

The Butterfly Clues (review)

4/5 stars

I have a soft spot for characters who are just a little bit mentally ill.  Maybe it's because I've watched Benny and Joon too many times (favorite movie, must watch).  It could also be that slightly mentally ill narrators have a distinctive voice that I find compelling.  Whatever the reason, The Butterfly Clues pulled me in.
"Every school a fresh reminder: no one wants to get to know the new kid, especially if the new kid is a weirdo who spends every second of every day trying not to seem like a total spaz in front of her teachers and classmates."
Lo is the constant new girl, a loner riddled with rituals and OCD that she tries to hide.  When books have a pretty girl who's completely ignored I normally find it unbelievable.  But add a little OCD, have the character tap tap tap banana- ing through the whole novel (taping & saying banana) then it feels much more realistic.

For some reason I thought this might have some paranormal tidbits. I have no idea where I got that idea because it's not paranormal in the least. It's a book about a girl with OCD solving a mystery.  Sometimes the whole "teen solving crime" storyline bothers me because I find myself shouting "WHY DON'T YOU CALL THE POLICE?"  Except in this story, Lo actually has a reason for not calling the police.  Then eventually when it gets out of hand she does contact the authorities (gasp! I know!).  Unfortunately due to her OCD they think she's a druggie and ignore what she says. Poor Lo.

Another reason this story struck a chord with me is that even though the main plotline is a mystery, this book is really about Lo trying to cope with the death of her brother.  I'm always drawn to books that deal with grief, especially when it's done in a more subtle way.  Some books want to say "Look I'm an Issue Book.  Let's talk about grief."  Then some books, such as The Butterfly Clues, show you someone trying to put the pieces of their life back together in the midsts of grief.  I much prefer the latter.  

The urban setting is vibrant with artsy.  At times it toes the line with trying too hard to be artsy.  There are street artists, homemade wigs and scary interpretive dancers/homeless people.  But I forgive all that.  Because Neverland, the run down section Cleveland where the book takes place, seems almost mythical at times.  But whenever you start to idealize the life of a street kid, the book drags you back to reality with strip clubs, drugs and murders.

The romance should have bothered me more than it did.  I only bought it because I felt Lo's loneliness so strongly.  She needed someone to tell her she was okay, to accept and ignore her rituals.  Was it a little rushed? Yes.  Too much too soon? Yep.  But I found myself wanting it for Lo.  In a world that had taken so much and treated her so unfairly I wanted her to have some happiness.

This book did have some flaws but they were all forgivable.  Yes it has some cliches, some story lines that we've seen before.  But the typical cliches actually made sense in this book.  But in the end it didn't matter.  I wasn't bothered by the flaws because I was too busy cheering for Lo.

Thanks to Netgalley for the e-galley!

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