Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Butterfly Summer

Butterfly Summer
Anne-Marie Conway
Londo, Usbourne, 2012, 251p

I am still crying as I try to compose this review. What a masterpiece of teenage fiction. I not even halfway through the 2013 Bookbuzz list, but I think I have found a favourite. 

Butterfly Summer came to my attention a few months ago when it won the Oxfordshire Book Awards. Becky and her mum have moved to Oakbridge, where Becky's mum lived before she was born. Becky has the whole of the summer to find her way around before she starts a new school, and her adventures lead her to the Butterfly Garden where she meets Rosa May. Together, they are determined to seek out the infamously evasive Silver-studded Blue, a butterfly that is incredibly rare and full of mysterious hope. 

But as they spend more and more time together, the friendship between Becky and Rosa May gets increasingly complex, as the latter becomes clingy and aggressive. At home, Becky's relationship with her mother becomes strained as Becky starts to feel like she is keeping secrets. All around her, people seem to be hiding things and acting weird, but revealing the truth is never as easy as it should be. 

This is such a brilliantly engaging, intelligent and exciting novel. It is so accessible, with language that lights up the pages. The Butterfly Garden is a beautiful space in which Conway explores the young girls' friendship; but even the most idyllic spaces can have a dark side. 

It is here that Conway really excels. She gently lays the foundations for a thrilling, emotional story about how one can never really hide or forget the past. As you read, the story reveals itself to you, just as the secrets slowly reveal themselves to Becky. 

Butterfly Summer is the perfect novel: the right length and pace; the right mix of drama, descriptive language, mystery and horror; and a brilliantly composed plot. I am in awe of Anne-Marie Conway.

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