Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tap, Tap, Tap, Banana...The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

The Butterfly Clues
Author Kate Ellison
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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.
Review: This is the second book I've read by Kate Ellison (See review of her newly released Notes from Ghost Town), and I was not disappointed!  What Ellison does remarkably well is portray flawed, and uniquely constructed characters.  She truly digs in and reveals the details that make each one special.  Without overwhelming the story with lengthy describes or extraneous details, every character is present, whether they are a main or support cast. It really does take great skill and craft to not neglect those less-than-starring roles.  From the Prophet, to Sapphire, to the bouncer at the club, the reader will receive a vivid, richly-developed insight into their worlds and who these people were. Through Ellison's effort, it's nearly impossible not to care or invest in the story, and dare I say, journey into Neverland? 

Need more praise to be convinced? Well, okay! I've got gobs to share! This modern day twist(ed) Peter Pan-like thematic awesomeness is worth the bus ticket. Who needs to fly when you can hitch a ride on the Cleveland Public Transit? But...I diverge, back to the praising! What Ellison also grasps, conveys, brings attention to, and humanizes is mental illness. After reading both books (although different), the author has found her niche in relating and characterizing varying aspects of the mentally ill theme. What I love about how she communicates the subject is she does not simply draw upon sympathy, cliches, stereotypes or generalizations, but rather 'shows' through situation, relationship and every day life. She's great at causing chaos at just the right moment to reveal exactly what she needs to. I like that she doesn't take the after-school-special approach. The grit makes it raw and compelling.  

I highly recommend picking up both of Ellison's books, The Butterfly Clues and Notes From Ghost Town. These young adult reads are deeply thematic and relevant, but without the sappy sympathy. There is a wonderful strength, courage, awkwardness, and just the right amount of teen naivety characterized in her female leads to make them enduring, frustrating (at times), but never pathetic. 
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* Review copy provided by EgmontUSA courtesy of NetGalley

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