Sonya Hartnett's BUTTERFLY (Candlewick, August 2010) is slender but packs a powerful punch. As I read the first few pages, I was struck by how absolutely spot on Hartnett was in her descriptions of Arielle (aka Plum, aka Aria) on the verge of her 14th birthday. Her loathing of her appearance, her view of the world around her, her unabashed love for her brother Justin: all of these contradictory elements are the key ingredients for the soupy mess that is teen angst. But do not dismiss this book as a teen angst novel for it is so much more. As the perspective shifts from Plum to Justin to her other brother Cydar, readers see the entire universe that makes up Plum's world. Only we see the flaws and failings of the brothers. Plum remains immune to these, blissfully unaware or perhaps unwilling to see them at all lest her world shatter into so many fragments.
Hartnett is a lyricist with language. Take any random sentence and see how it sings even when Plum is observing something as mundane as her brother working on his car. It creates a book worthy of re-reading. I often come back to Hartnett's books to see them again. I am in such a rush to see what will befall her characters that I know I need to go back and see how she does it all. How does she make me read with gorge rising in my throat or with fear bubbling up, or recognition taking me back to my own adolescence? Ah, that is her particular magic. <256>
POSSIBLE READING LADDER RUNGS:
THE RAG AND BONE SHOP