Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book Review: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Book: The Butterfly Clues
Author: Kate Ellison
Published: 2012
Source: Review Copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

Lo Marin has always had little routines, an obsession with numbers (nine, good; eight, bad) and other quirks that help her get through her day. But ever since her brother's overdose, these quirks have blossomed into a full-blown disorder that she hides as best she can.

When a girl her own age is killed almost in front of her, she becomes fixated on the victim. She keeps running across random items that all seem to lead back to Sapphire. As more and more clues come to light, she becomes convinced that it was no random tragedy, but a premeditated murder. With the help of Flynt, a charismatic and secretive homeless boy her own age, Lo plunges into the seamy underbelly of Cleveland, searching for Sapphire's killer.

But is there really a dark and convoluted plot afoot? Or is she just seeing patterns where none exist?

One of my favorite tropes is an unreliable narrator. This one is particularly unreliable because of her mental illness. Not that you start to think that she's imagining any of the actual people or events that she encounters, but you do wonder if she's imagining the connections. After all, this is a girl who is physically unable to pass through a doorway without tapping the frame three times and whispering the word "bananas." Because of the tenuous and coincidental nature of some of the clues, you really do wonder whether the patterns she sees are real until about midway through the novel, when it becomes clear that something is really going on. The mystery itself wasn't particularly tricksy--I knew who the bad guy was the moment I met him. I was surprised by how Lo's dead brother tied in, though.

I also like the treatment of OCD. Ellison shows how deeply entrenched the patterns become, and also how they worsen with anxiety. Sometimes her disorder helps, sometimes it hinders, and at all times, Lo has to live with it. Hunting for Sapphire's killer gives her a focus, something she can control as she works through the delayed trauma of her brother's death. I also liked how the end showed that there is no miracle cure, only a measure of control over it.

If you're looking for a mystery with a seamy edge and a unique main character, The Butterfly Clues may fit the bill.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What You've Been Waiting For

This . . . is a very special day.

It's Cybils day!! Hop over to the Cybils website to find out the winners of this year's awards. Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators, and big, big thanks to all the judges, organizers, and of course, Anne the Cybils Master. It's a tough job, and we're lucky you're doing it.

Oh, yeah, and there's something about love . . . or something, right?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Reading Roundup: January 2012

By the Numbers
Teen: 19
Tween: 9
Children: 7

Review Copies: 11
Swapped: 1
Purchased: 5
Library: 16

Teen: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
I realize I'm a few years late on this one. You know how everybody raaaaves about a book and then you get all contrary and go, "Nah, can't possibly be that good?" And you just give in and read it and then it is? Oh, just me, then. Anyway, if you haven't read this book about the past and the present and family and secrets and the love that gets passed down across generations even though you don't really know where it all came from . . . well, you should. 'Kay? Mkay.
Tween: The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner
This story of a girl undergoing massive life changes as the seasons change around her is poignant and sweet and immediately recognizable to anybody who's ever lived through the tween years.
Children: The Case of the Vanishing Frogs: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle
Just why are the golden frogs of Panama disappearing? Come along and find out why, and what scientists are doing to save them. Just right for mystery lovers, animal lovers, and anybody who loves magnificent pictures.

Because I Want To Awards
Most Hmmm-Worthy: Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
There's a lot that sets this book about an nun/assassin in 15th century Brittany apart. Generally in a good way, but mostly in a Hmmm way. I want to muse on it sometime soon.
Most Stomach-Turning: Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves
It's about the two daughters of a serial killer, who seem to be taking after dear old Dad. Yikes. But more than that, it's about two sisters, struggling with the change in themselves and in their relationship. While they, y'know, kill people. A lot.
Sequel Most Desired: Powerless by Matthew Cody
Holy potential, Batman! While this story of a town protected by preteen superheroes, and the one ordinary kid who's in on the secret, was tied up all right and tight (no cliffhangers here!), there were some threads that could be woven into a killer sequel. Please? Pleaseplease?
Just What I Wanted: Ottoline Goes to School by Chris Riddell
I've been thoroughly charmed by Ottoline and her faithful Mr. Munroe (not a dog) since the first book. This entry into the series was exactly the mixture of quirky and sweet that I expected and wanted.