June's life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. Not even her dad knows the truth, and she can't find the words to tell anyone else. She's trapped like a butterfly in a net. Then June meets Blister, a boy from a large, loving, chaotic family. In him, she finds a glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away. Because she deserves her freedom. Doesn't she?
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"After her father remarries Kathleen, a white woman, June's world is turned upside down. She is dark in a world of white where white is good and dark is bad. Kathleen, her stepsister, and the students at school all physically and emotionally abuse her, so much so that she is terrified to speak. She cannot tell anyone, not even her best friend and eventual love, Blister. When she tries to tell her teachers, other adults, and her father, no one believes her; she is made to feel like everything is her fault. The madness of it is too much for June.
Heathfield has written a beautifully heartbreaking story that will frighten readers, tear them apart, give them hope, leave them hopeless, and, finally, give them some relief. June battles with so much torment—not only the physical and emotional abuse of those attacking her, but from within as well. Through all the hate, shame, and horribleness she endures, she still maintains the belief that evil cannot and will not win. Although terror plays a large role in this novel, there are themes of love, family, justice, and hope. The book contains many detailed scenes of abuse that could be upsetting to sensitive readers, but it is appropriate for junior and senior high readers prepared for that kind of horror."—VOYA
"June is trying to cope with the death of her mother while simultaneously gaining a new stepmother and stepsister. She feels left out of this newly formed familial unit both because she's biracial and owing to the increasingly cruel and alienating actions of her stepmother. June's father is too blinded by love and the façade of a happy home to notice the tension between his family members. Her miserable home life, coupled with bullies at school, lead the protagonist to slowly withdraw. June's only refuge comes from taking long bike rides. It is on one of these bike rides that she meets a young boy named Blister. The two friends bond over their love of origami, buried treasure, and make-believe. June's loving interactions with Blister and his family only further highlight the dysfunction within her own home. When a shocking revelation further alters June's relationship with her father, the nature of Blister and June's friendship changes. A horrible incident widens the divide between the two friends. This novel is written in vignette form and toggles between before and after a cataclysmic event. The story examines emotional and physical abuse from a unique perspective. However, the use of foreshadowing in combination with imaginative thematic devices jumbles the narrative too much and might leave readers confused about what's real and what isn't. A good selection for large libraries serving young adults."—School Library Journal—Journal
"June narrates her story from the ages of 10 to 24, detailing the brutal physical and psychological abuse she suffers at the hands of her stepmother, Kathleen, and stepsister, Megan. From forcing her to overeat to convincing June that she and her deceased mother are worthless because they are black, Kathleen and Megan torture June every time her white father's back is turned. Afraid to say anything about the abuse to her father or teachers, June finds solace in Blister, a homeschooled boy from a large family, with whom she starts to fall in love. June's story is all the more heartbreaking because her visceral account, though fiction, is undoubtedly a reality for children suffering from abuse behind closed doors. The narrative derails considerably when an event near the end of the tale effectively forces June to internalize the idea that her silence—as a victim—is to blame. Despite a heavy-handed delivery, this novel, a 2017 Carnegie Medal nominee in Great Britain, manages to end on a hopeful note."—Booklist
"Paper Butterflies is a harrowing account of abuse, retaliation and love against the odds. June's stepmother forcefeeds and torments her, and her father is blind to her treatment. But when June meets a boy called Blister, something beautiful unfurls. This is the antithesis of cheerful summer romance, but readers feeling tough enough to traverse Heathfield's dark places will find transporting joy in her interludes of sunlight."—The Guardian
Lisa Heathfield is an award-winning author and a former high school English teacher. She lives with her family in Brighton, England.