BUTTERFLIES by Susanne Gervay


Age Range: 11 & up
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This Australian import powerfully depicts the lasting damage of third-degree burns.

Katherine, almost 18, suffers from the many aftereffects of the severe burns she sustained as a toddler. She lives with her loving older sister, Rachel, and her slightly controlling Italian mother. Her father, who abandoned the family shortly after Katherine’s accident, is now trying to reestablish a relationship with them, one of many issues Katherine faces. As she contrasts her life to that of her lovely best friend, Jessie, she deals with bullying by a classmate, the clumsy, ambiguous romantic advances of William, the willingness of some adults to classify her as disabled while she strives for normalcy—by relentlessly driving herself on a swim team, for example—and, primarily, her quest to improve the appearance of her scars. Her italicized inner monologues, contrasting with the present-tense, third-person narration, gradually move from angry and self-pitying toward a more mature self-acceptance, but they fail to ring true given the extremely spirited actions she’s taken. “I’m sick of it. Unfair. Unfair. Just leave me, that’s right,” she thinks when she arrives home to discover her mother and sister are still out. This relentless negativity diminishes Katherine’s appeal as a character.

While vividly documenting the devastating aftereffects of severe burns, this effort never fully captures the protagonist’s spirit, making for a frustrating, emotionally draining read. (Fiction. 11 & up)
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61067-043-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Kane/Miller
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2011


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