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Monday, April 2, 2012

"The Butterfly Clues"~OCD and Grief Crime-solving

Published by:  Egmont USA
Pages: 360+
Genre: YA Fiction

Book  Summary:
Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place--possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.

But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"--a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.

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 much closer to home than she ever imagined--a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death.

The Dame's Take :
Really great book.  Not your typical YA novel that has to feature a paranormal story these days to work.  I loved that about it!  Penelope's wit and crime solving isn't driven by the supernatural.  Very interesting to read the psychological "inner talk" of a hoarder and cleptomanic; as well as an OCD "tapper."

What about the author?   Exemplary skills. Great character development.  Smooth writing style that worked to create an easy flow to her story.  She had a strong beginning and carried that through to the end.  I loved her choosing the OCD in her protagonist, Penelope, almost a secondary "character" in this novel...very clever.  Genius writing in the way she allowed the OCD to sometimes take over the horrors of a situation adding an additional heaviness and villainy to it.  The resolutions of the disorder throughout the novel made it a superior and rare story with intelligent psychological importance. To me, it was as strong a storyline as the actual murder-solving.  Easily as interesting and so exacerbated by the grief over her brother's death.

Favorite character?   Flynt.  He was an alive and commanding "Peter Pan" of Neverland. I found his artistic ways, his dumpster diving, his way of making life contented in simplicity irresistible. His quiet recognition of Lo's OCD and his willingness to follow her patterns to create a "safe place" for her made him a perfect foil.  Flynt as the "rescuer" throughout, was a strong character in Ms Ellison's book and that was a key factor in the success of it.  Happily, it was Flynt who was the loving element in Lo's life that helped her break through so many anxieties.  It was fascinating to see the "lost boy" image in his character.

What about Lo's OCD?  Frankly, although I've never seen anyone with this disorder in person, I felt completely paralyzed by it in reading.  Ms Ellison made it a cloying and ever present part of her novel through Lo.  I felt the pressure, the anxiety and constriction of Lo's compulsions when reading this book.  At times, I found myself monitoring my breathing to copy Lo's counting and breathing, tapping the fingers of my left hand on my arm chair, nodding my head along with hers. I have never experienced a disorder like this so personally in reading.  That is an incredible impact from a novel, I think!  I actually became hindered by Lo's OCD for a few moments in time.  It was a gripping experience.  Ms Ellison's way of depicting it is nothing short of amazing.

Conclusion:  "Butterfly Clues" is a phenominally written, beautifully crafted book that takes us to psychological places we may never have been exposed to.  Solving the murder mystery strangely connecting Lo to the young stripper, Sapphire, moves this novel forward at a rapid speed. However, it's the drive to understand Lo's OCD that kept me intrigued and wondering if anyone would be able to help her manage it, and the loss of her precious brother, Oren. 

5 stars for this very unique book.  Highly recommend 


1)   Have you known or do you know anyone with OCD?
2)   Penelope had the strong compulsion to steal small  
      objects.  How do you suppose this would have helped
      her anxiety?

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