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Paper Butterflies

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June's life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net.

But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom... But at what price?

312 pages, Paperback

First published June 30, 2016

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About the author

Lisa Heathfield

6 books264 followers
Before becoming a mum to her three sons, Lisa Heathfield was a secondary school English teacher and loved inspiring teenagers to read.

Award-winning author Lisa Heathfield launched her career with SEED in 2015. Published by Egmont it is a stunning YA debut about a life in cult. PAPER BUTTERFLIES is her beautiful and heart-breaking second novel. FLIGHT OF A STARLING is another heart-breaking read with an important message.

Lisa lives in Brighton with her family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 740 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,992 reviews298k followers
February 6, 2017
“But at what point is a child to blame?”

I am NOT okay. Paper Butterflies is very compelling, but read it when you are in a good mental place. An extra warning to those sensitive to scenes of physical and psychological abuse.

I don't know how to talk about this book, or if I should really give it four stars, which means "really liked it" when I absolutely hated it. It crushed my heart. I actually felt a little panicked at times, like I couldn't breathe inside June's head. I found it hard to sleep while thinking about this book. It made me feel quite ill, if I’m honest.

Are the best books those where the author is so convincing that it becomes hard to separate the book you are reading from reality? If so, Paper Butterflies deserves all the stars. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't real for the sake of my sanity. I recently said in my review of Allegedly that the best books are those that make me furious for the characters, but this book made me beyond furious - I felt terrified.

If I can control my emotions for a second I'll try to tell you a bit about it. The story follows June from her young childhood to early adult years, moving between the "Before" and the "After". During her childhood and teen years, she lives with her abusive stepmother, Kathleen, who plays vindictive mind games; her stepsister - Megan - who acts as an accomplice; and her completely clueless father who refuses to see what is right in front of his eyes.

June is black, like her deceased mother, which further makes her an outsider in her white family, and in her predominantly white school. Her torture from her stepmother and schoolmates, it seems, never ends. The only reprieve she gets is in the form of her secret friend, Blister, and his eccentric family.

It's a book about how family members, teachers, society, all authority figures can fail someone so entirely. It's about how the truth can be grossly twisted, to devastating effect.

What is interesting, however, is the way the book examines cycles of violence and abuse, asking us to consider at the book's darkest moments: what horrors must have happened to Kathleen to make her this way? How much fear must Megan live in to assist her mother in abusing her stepsister? We are reminded that no one is born evil.
“But Megan hurt me.” My tears are sudden and angry.
“I know.”
“I don’t feel sorry for her.”
“I do,” Reverend Shaw says calmly.

I've spoken before about how I think one of the most truly scary things is to tell the truth and have no one believe you. To have people believe you're the bad guy, that you have some hidden agenda... this book is that feeling x1000. I was so scared and horrified for June. I kept turning the pages in a desperate need to know what happened to her.

This book hurt me so bad. The unfairness, the injustice in Paper Butterflies was almost too much for me. It was a claustrophobic, suffocating, horrifying book. And yet, somehow, I feel the need to read everything Heathfield has ever written.

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Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews601 followers
March 2, 2019
My head is pounding from so much crying!!! My tummy is shaking ...
I’m still soooooo SAD!!!
I’m a completely drained wet noodle.....useless for the rest of the day.
I still want to cry and cry and cry.

I can’t talk right now -
Or write specific details in this review.
The visuals are so real... (I actually felt sick in parts of it).
I thought “Winter Loon”, by Susan Bernhard was grueling —
“Holy Lands”, by Amanda Sthers emotionally agonizing,(but one of my favorite books of the year)....
“The Vegetarian”, by Han Kang, terrifying, and....
“Mischling”, by Affinity Konar, one of the most haunting painful books I had read.

And now comes “Paper Butterflies”, by Lisa Heathfield...

What all of the books I’ve mentioned have in common…(even though completely different topics)...is that they are each piercing with emotions . Really ‘piercing’.
This book is VERY HIGH on the agonizing-BRUTAL emotional train.

The horrific scenes in “Paper Butterflies”, are NAUSEATING-HEARTBREAKING!!!!
The sweet parts are GLORIOUSLY SWEET!!!!

The characters and haunting prose make “Paper Butterflies”, hard to put down.

June and Blister are easy to love: precious wonderful kids. This book wouldn’t be the same without their spirits.

Lisa Heathfield is a fearless author. She didn’t shy away from devastating cruelty.
Thank God not every moment was bleak.
“Paper Butterflies” is ‘also’ a luminous tale of hope in the shadows of abuse and injustice.

But it’s one of the SADDEST books I’ve ever read!!!

Beautifully written!!!!!
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,080 reviews619 followers
August 15, 2023
To open this book is to step into a disturbing world – June’s world. June is a young girl who lives with her step-mother and step-sister. Her dad lives there too, except he’s away a good deal, working. June’s mother died, she drowned.

Bad things happen all the time to June, it’s as if everybody is plotting against her. Then she meets a boy, Blister, and suddenly there is a bright spot in her life, something to look forward to and to protect.

Much of the time I found this hard to read, uncomfortable in the extreme. But the writing is good and I’d quickly become invested in the fate of the lead character – I ploughed on. And I’m glad I did, it’s a book that packs a real punch. I knew there had to be a twist but when it came it wasn’t what I was expecting.

An excellent and impactful story that had me chasing through the last few pages holding my breath. One to catch if you’re up for an uncomfortable but rewarding short read.

My thanks to Egmont Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,096 reviews17.7k followers
January 1, 2021
An interesting book as a case study about the ends children can be driven to; however, I really struggled to get past the sheer brutality and darkness of this one.

This is an incredibly dark book that, ironically, I think I would’ve enjoyed a lot more three years ago. There is a lot to like about this book. It is very well-written. The depictions of gaslighting, force-feeding, lack of belief, and racially-charged abuse, in particular, are horrifying but incredibly accurate to real-life abuse. The main character, a young black & biracial girl named June, has a realistic inner monologue for a child. For these exact reasons, I found the first 10% or so incredibly promising, and indeed basically read this whole book in a day.

I think this works as and as a story imitating real life that perhaps parallells I actually think this book could have been a four-star read for me — it’s not my personal thing, but I would’ve appreciated it more — had it revealed the main character’s current situation at the beginning of the book, rather than at the end. At that point, it would’ve become an interesting book about learning the truth, and developing empathy for the lead.

I understand why this choice was not made — . However, the result is that this book is marketed as a narrative about abuse, and that was my expectation going in. The real point of the story is not clear until the 90% mark, quite literally. Personally, I don’t think Paper Butterflies works as a narrative about abuse.

It’s a narrative around abuse that is, as expected, incredibly brutal. Unfortunately, I think it doesn’t counter that brutality with a lot of hope, or self-actualization for the lead, or dimension. Scenes tend towards the gratuitous to a point where I genuinely felt like vomiting. Towards the beginning of the book, I was turning pages quickly, waiting for the point in which June could finally get out and begin her journey towards a future. I kept turning pages and waiting for this until the very end.

The only moments of hope within this book, in fact, come from her relationship with a boy (of course) down the street. I’ve talked before about the ways in which the trend of using romance as the way to spur a character’s self-actualization is harmful and creates stagnant narratives (although apparently, not in a full blog post that I can helpfully link to?). The problem with using a romance to spur self-actualization for a child or teen is that relationships in which one person is incredibly isolated from others, especially family members, can very easily turn abusive without any oversight. This is not to say that abuse survivors should not date, but that to a teenager without a support system, reading YA, the idea of a romantic relationship being the only good thing in your life can seem very easy and very appealing, and thus it can be very easy to ignore warning signs. Utilizing romance as the main source of light in a dark book also, frankly, leads to very stagnant narratives, and has also been done before about ten thousand times. (I’m bored.)

Though this book successfully crafted a relationship in which the love interest is kind, caring, and not at all a source of drama, I did crave more.

The scenes with the priest, in particular, bothered me a lot. I have read the narrative that abusers were probably abused themselves and thus we should forgive them before. I find it to be a very tasteless and useless phrase in actually interacting with abuse survivors, and as JA points out, this statement (in many cases) erases accountability. Children can receive some pass for making awful decisions while living in an abusive household. Adults, however, should not. What genuinely upset me about these scenes, however, is that the priest does not once use validation techniques. In peer counseling training I did my senior year of high school, one of the first things we were taught was to validate the feelings of those experiencing hard times. Even in situations where no actual wrong is happening, it is important to feel as if your feelings are heard. The priest does not do this for June, ever. No one does this for June.

This would not bother me as the attitude presented by a character. However, the priest is very clearly framed as the most correct character in this book. This is the attitude presented by the book towards forgiveness. I don't think it's a good one.

The thing about this book is that I would recommend this much more to adults who need to develop empathy than to kids actually in this situation, or those who have experienced it themselves. And that’s… fine, I guess? The popularity of A Little Life should indicate that this is something that resonates with people. Personally, however, this brought me very very low levels of catharsis or joy or anything I really read for. If I’m going to read a narrative about the impacts of abuse, I suppose I’d rather read one that focuses on the self-actualization and healthy growth of the protagonist, not one that simply tortures her for 300 pages with occasional bits of a romance.

I do want to point out, as I think reviewers in other countries have been shocked by this:

The point is that I understand why this was written. I just didn't personally get very much out of it.

TW: heavy depiction of abuse, including force-feeding, gaslighting, racially charged abuse, a lot of not believing victims, favoritism.

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Profile Image for Isa.
41 reviews67 followers
January 9, 2018
I am at a loss of words when it comes to this book..... It rips your heart out and then it places it gently back in it's place.Reading this book has been for me like riding a emotional carousel, took me all the way through from anger, revolt to peace, love and empathy .I completely loved this book!!!
Profile Image for Aga Durka.
200 reviews60 followers
March 6, 2019
“And, in my mind, I scoop up every one of my butterflies and push them down into my heart. I’ll keep them safe and they can beat their wings and no one will ever know that they’re there”

I am broken after reading this book. My heart is bleeding from all the emotions that I was feeling when reading this horrifying and heart wrenching novel. True monsters due exist and they can break the strongest soul down when they put their claws in it. This book...I am speechless.... I cried so hard for June. I wanted to wrap my arms around her and take all her hurt away. I was so angry and disguised at how she was treated, at what was done to her...the only part that made things a little better for me and put a small bandage on my broken heart was the love and friendship between June and Blister.
It feels wrong to give this book 5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ because it was so disturbing and awful at times. But this book was a masterpiece, with raw emotions spilling out of its pages with each sentence read.

“And I want to curl into a ball so small that they won’t notice when I slide away. I’ll roll into a gutter and disappear into murky water and no one will ever know”
Profile Image for Maxine (Booklover Catlady).
1,348 reviews1,250 followers
January 9, 2018
This book just ripped my heart out and shredded it over and over again. So much depth of feeling written into a book. Phenomenal writing. I felt a million things reading this outstanding book and yes, it made me cry and only 3 books have ever had that impact on me. This is powerful.

More detailed review coming once I put my heart back together again.
Profile Image for Justkeepreading.
1,874 reviews79 followers
February 15, 2017
Thank you to Netgalley, Egmont Publishing and Lisa Heathfielf for the opportunity to read this book for an honest review.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance reader copy of this book.

You can find my review on both Goodreads and Amazon. On Goodreads from today under Karen Whittard and on Amazon under k.e.whittard from publication date.

'I'm so sad that I dont know how my heart carries on beating'

This is a must read of a book. More people need to read this book. Simply to understand what a brilliant author Lisa is, and to raise awareness of child abuse.

This is a heartbreaking, traumatic but yet addictive and at times beautiful book. One that will definitely pull at your heart strings and one that had me addicted to it from the the very first page to the very last. I should warn you that at times this is an extremely hard read but something just made me pull through all those horrible nasty pages and complete the book. I wanted to reach though the pages and rescue June from her horrific life.

This is the story of June. Her life is full of traumatic abuse, physically, mentally and emotionally.

June's mother had died in what people are lead to believe the river after she got untangled in some vines and couldn't get out. But are things ever as simple as they first appear?

June's father has remarried to a woman who he believes is wonderful. June now has a step mother and step sister. Who are sweet and light on the surface when other people are around. But are bitterly cruel -and unkind to June subjecting her to abuse everytime her father isn't there and let's just say that's a lot of the time.

June doesn't have any respite at school either. She is horrifically bullied to the point where the children abuse her whenever they can. Holding her down and painting her skin white to match theirs is a scenario I will not forget.

No adults or teachers or her own father believe June's call for help. They believe that she is just acting up. After her mother died and so no one steps in to help her. Not one single person believes or helps June and it breaks my heart.

One day June is out on her bike and stumbles across some caravans. There she meets a boy named Blister who makes beautiful animals and decorations out of paper. Blister is the only one June can count on. She finds solitude, peace, understanding and friendship with Blister. Something she has never had before. Their friendship helps June survive her horrific life every day.

This book is not told through the eyes of June as an adult looking back at her life. But told by the eyes of June when she is a child through to her teen years. When she is going through this horrific ordeal. Which for me makes it even more heartbreaking.

This book isn't completly sad on every single page. The parts with Blister are happy and it is wonderful to see their friendship grow.

I always wanted a happy ending for June. But the ending of the book takes a surprising turn. One I certainly didn't see coming.

Lisa writes this book, so fantastically. She really takes the reader on a journey and is a master crafts woman. I felt every single inch of pain like it was happening to me and I was an emotional wreck. This is clever skills. I will be looking out for more from this author in the future.

Happy reading everyone
July 3, 2017

Young Adult
Tough read. Thought provoking. Maybe a little slow in places. <-Maybe it had to be that way. I had a slight issue with some transitions within the chapters. But..... The last 20% showed me that this story had seeped into my heart. It was definitely a tough read, there were times I had to pause but overall a book worth reading. FULL REVIEW THOUGHTS TO COME

Advance copy provided for my honest review thoughts *
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,065 reviews1,472 followers
June 21, 2018
"I'm so sad that I don't know how my heart carries on beating."

I have received this book on a read-to-review basis from NetGalley. Thank you to the author, Lisa Heathfield, and the publisher, Electric Monkey, for the opportunity.

This was completely traumatic, completely beautiful and completely broke my heart!

This is the story of mental and physical child-abuse experienced through the eyes of the victim. June is a girl of mixed race who finds herself in an entirely white family after the tragic, early death of her mother and her father's remarriage. This is a classic tale of the evil stepmother but there was nothing dated about the heartrending and harrowing depiction of her ordeal.

June's recounted tales of the tragedy of her young life are intersected with glimpses at her full-grown self and how she is struggling to cope with and to accept her abuse. Primarily, however, this isn't an adult telling a memoir, but is viewed through the child's perspective as she relives her ordeal. It feels real and each moment is made more heartbreaking because of it.

I devoured this novel in just two sittings as the beauty of the writing and the poignancy of the tale compelled me to keep going until I discovered the light at the end of the tunnel. This tale wasn't sad in its entirety however. The sadness was alleviated by June's happiness when with her only friend, Bliss. Seeing their relationship progress gave me real joy and a hope for a better ending to her miserable existence. The plot took an unforeseen turn, however, that still gives me chills to think about.

This was a strong novel with an even stronger novel and handled a touching subject matter with the grace and beauty it deserved.
Profile Image for Bookread2day.
2,310 reviews63 followers
December 28, 2016
The most tearful story that I have ever read. Lisa Heathfield is certainly a very talented author and is definitely going on a high adventure to the top. More readers should read Paper Butterflies. Every word every sentence every chapter every character had my full attention. I know for certain that other readers will love it too. June was ill treated by her wicked stepmother and stepsister to the point it had me in tears. What is more upsetting no one would believe what her stepmother or stepsister was doing to her. In school June had no friends, the kids in her class did the most awful things to her. For June it was an impossible loneliness. A silence inside that stripped away her soul. Then one day while June was in the woods she meets a boy, Blister who is very creative making things from paper and he becomes June's only friend. So much happens in this page-turning novel that it is going to be one of those stories that I will never forget. Please read it as I very, very highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Jenny Baker.
1,286 reviews194 followers
May 28, 2017
This book made me feel like I was the one abused instead of June. I read warnings in other reviews that I shouldn’t read this if I’m not in a good emotional place or if I’m sensitive to scenes of abuse. I ignored the warnings, because the story was intriguing. God, they weren’t even exaggerating!

It’s rare for a novel to make me feel so emotionally connected that I’m almost convinced that it’s a reality. I was so angry and anxious as I read this that I wasn’t sure if I could finish it. I decided that I HAD to know how it ended, so I pushed through, especially during the abuse scenes. I’m so glad that I finished it and now I feel stronger for having read it. I feel like a true survivor of abuse.

This is hard to rate. Part of me wants to give it one star for making me feel so broken and another part of me wants to give it five stars for having the writing talent to evoke that feeling. It would be insulting to give it three stars, so I’m going with four.

I don’t know how many times I wanted to hurt Kathleen, yell at Megan, June’s father, and her classmates. I wanted to beat Kathleen within an inch of her life. I had to fight back the tears so many times. I had to keep reminding myself this isn’t happening to me. I can’t even give examples of some of the abuse June faced. I just don’t want to relive it.

Thank God for June’s friend Blister. He was such a savior and the most amazing friend you could ever imagine. It was such a blessing for June to meet him on that day. I don’t think June could have endured years of abuse without Blister on her side.

I really understood June. She was so terrified that she couldn’t speak up, except she did tell Blister some of it. I know what it feels like to be paralyzed with fear and feeling like everyone around you is ganging up on you. She faced abuse at home and bullying at school. Going to Blister’s house was her only reprieve.

”It wasn’t about courage. You had that. It was about opportunity and faith in human nature. Yet your faith in that was being destroyed.”

June’s classmates would steal, put the stolen items in her book bag, and then tell school officials that they saw June steal it. Nobody believed her. That’s one of my biggest fears in life, being framed for a crime I didn’t commit and not being able to prove my innocence. I’ve had more than one nightmare about that.

”Sometimes, people are blind to what’s right in front of them,” he says calmly.

This story brought up memories that I didn’t want to recall. My story isn’t nearly as bad as June’s is, but I’ve had my own traumatic experiences. I had relatives say and do hurtful things (physically hurtful things) to me only to be told, Jenny, stop being oversensitive. You need thicker skin. You need to learn to speak up to them. It’s your fault they treat you that way. You. You. You. Jenny, it’s all your fault. God, I just want to fucking scream! Sorry, the soapboxing is over.

My mind is still racing from this. I can’t seem to shut off those imagines in my mind. Granted, I feel like I’m suffering from PTSD after reading Paper Butterflies, I don’t regret reading it one bit. If you can endure a story of abuse, it’s worth reading. Just prepare yourself.

”Suffering produces endurance,” he reads. “And endurance produces character and character produces hope.” I feel his hand gently on my back. “And hope does not put us to shame.”

Jenny’s Book Bag | Facebook | Twitter
Profile Image for Aoife.
1,334 reviews584 followers
November 14, 2016
I read this in a little under two hours. Once I started it I just couldn't put it down even though my eyes were filling with tears and I could feel my heart physically aching inside my chest. This is a very tough read but an extremely powerful one. At times I felt myself actually recoil when I read about Kathleen pretending to hug and caress June in front of her dad as if I was actually in the story. This is a book that will stick with me.
Profile Image for Maddie.
557 reviews1,150 followers
March 10, 2016
I don't know what to say about this book, apart from the fact that I hated it and somehow couldn't stop reading! I needed to know June was OK after all the horrible, cruel, downright evil things her stepmother did to her. I cried a lot while reading this. I had no idea where the book was going. I only enjoyed reading the parts where June was with Buster. Literally the most depressing book I've read. Only read if you're mentally prepared for something extremely sad, with very little hope. Lisa Heathfield redefines my ability to give star ratings, and the two stars are not reflective of her writing style and excellent management of plot.
July 6, 2017
(Review courtesy of http://www.craftyscribbles.com)

One of the cons about avid reading involves venturing into tales with repugnant subjects. Depending on the story line, separating fiction from reality triggers a toll on one's heart, if they're unprepared. For me, child abuse remains number one on the subjects I find difficult to experience.

Despite the good writing of this book, I yearned to "DNF" (Did Not Finish, in bookworm terms), simply because some scenes tore at my heart. But, to support the book, I continued.

I met June, before and after a monumental moment in her life, a young black girl living with her father, stepmother, and stepsister, after her mother's death.  To say her early years disturbs understated the truth. Every day reflected torture: physical, emotional, and verbal. One point to consider the depth of this book: she's black and her "family's" white. Her father adored her, but the other two, particularly her stepmother's a bigot, which added layers to her abuse. For example, June's called ugly and her stepmother insisted on over-feeding her to fatten her. 

Sadly, the abuse never stopped. School, a respite for abused children, failed to provide the breath required to get through each day (She had friends - two girls, but children can only provide so much when they do not know what you're experiencing at home). Bullied and ignored by students and teachers alike, they inflamed her pain. 

Year after year, she persevered through abuse, until she turned sixteen, where desperation led to an ultimate act of freedom. In her after moments, June learned forgiveness - not necessarily for her parents, but for her sister's role in the abuse. They reached an understanding as Megan suffered by her mother's hands, which does not excuse her, but offers a discussion of cyclic abuse.

Yet, Blister, her one true friend, and his eccentric but lovable family, served as the one bright side among the dark. As a reader along for the journey, I thanked Lisa Heathfield for offering him and his family as respite because, as aforementioned, I wanted to leave this story incomplete. 

Heathfield wrote a good story, pinging my heart and soul, while tearing at my anger. She created harrowing scenes I wished to skip, but could not. Trigger warning: Some scenes set clear and bleak instances of abuse, especially if one's experienced similar mistreatment. I felt I witnessed these abuse while standing behind June. While I did not cry, I yearned to help a fictional character I know truly was not fictional. I kept screaming (to myself), "Speak up! Stop suffering." Alas, nothing's ever simple. I never truly spoke up myself and saw myself projecting what I should have done in my past.

Heathfield's characters despised me. Kathleen, the stepfather, served as the evil and despicable stepmother aiming her racism and cruelty at a defenseless child/teen. When the story progressed, one's lead to see clear reasoning: envy and hatred borne from secrets laying underneath the surface. More so, her father, his name escaped me, turned a blind eye to his daughter's pain and enabled Kathleen's torture. Why bother remembering his name? Finally, her stepsister, Megan, showed more of an arc, as both victim and victimizer. She realized her roles in this twisted familial game. 

Unfortunately, while Blister offered respite, sometimes the abuse became too much and I felt some scenes ran gratuitous. Some of the after moments felt disingenuous and felt more like a soap opera, not a novel. 

Verdict: 3.5/5 Paper butterflies. Worth a read, despite some objections. 

*Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to read this tale in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Basia.
193 reviews55 followers
February 6, 2017
"Because a butterfly with a broken wing can still fly. ..."

If one could take a life, a pretty devastating one, but all the more real for all the suffering therein, and distill it such that it took the form of a novel instead, Paper Butterflies would be that book. Not since The Enchanted have I read anything so painful, so upsetting, so hopeless but yet somehow framed in hope. Breathtaking.

In truth, I don't recall the last time I read a book that was this intense, this raw, this difficult to get through due to the circumstances surrounding the protagonist, June. However, I want to be clear here that this is in no way due to any fault with the book; it is the book's subject matter that makes it a difficult book to pick up. But pick it up, you SHOULD!

From the moment we start reading, we know, we can literally feel, that June is living a terrible nightmare. Her step mom and sister by marriage torture her, and her dad apparently has no clue. Sadly, June is subjected to similar abuse at school. Yet, nowhere does anyone around her think to inquire about her situation.

Her abuse began when her dad remarried, when June was only 9 or 10. The book follows June from this point, until her early 20s. It was a thing of awe-inspiring beauty, to watch June grow, to stand beside her as she did her best to cope. It was also maddening, seeing the same missed opportunities for help that she saw. At times, I wanted to scream at some of these "mandated reporters," such as nurses, teachers, etc., etc.

Yes, this is a story of how June's entire world failed her again and again and again. And yet it is also a story about June's ceaseless fight to hold onto her sanity throughout, and to embrace joy wherever she caught even the slightest glimpse of its existence. It's a story of human nature, of the past repeating itself, time and again, until something happens to break that cycle. It questions our assumptions. It tests us, setting us up to feel this way or that about a character, then makes us reevaluate the criteria we utilize in making such decisions about people: whom to like, whom to dislike; who is basically GOOD, and who is NOT; ARE some people BORN evil? Or are we in fact all born GOOD?? Do we ever truly know ANYONE???

I remember, about a week ago, this book came through my feed. Someone had posted that this book was the most depressing story they've ever read. Well, that was enough to spark my interest. And I am so grateful that I found this compellingly readable, heartbreaking, and inspiring novel. I finished it in only 3 sittings.

Clearly, this novel threw me for a loop. It managed to keep surprising me to the very last page. Terrifically executed. Such perfect economy with words. Everything was evoked so vividly, I felt present in the story. An intense read, to be sure.

HIGHLY recommended.

However, it's not for everyone. In these gory days, there's nothing in here you've not seen before, I'm guessing, however the scenes where June was victimized did become increasingly difficult to read. Not so much because of explicit language ... these people were just CRUEL. OVER AND OVER. I liked June more with every page I read, so that contributed as well. If child abuse is your RAGE button, this may not be the book for you.
Profile Image for ☾.
235 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2022
3.8 stars. is it an earth-shattering and fantastically written read? not exactly. but is it a heartbreaking story on racially-charged child abuse and trauma? absolutely.

the before and after chapters? work so so so well in this book. the execution of what exactly the event was that took place between the befores and afters? not so great.

the event itself was realllyyyy out of left field considering how the plot was progressing, which kind of put me off. that being said, i did adjust to the aftermath and i will say that the ending made me cry my eyes out. also, the “after” scenes with the reverend were great, even if i didn’t agree with everything (then again- he’s a reverend and not a licensed therapist, which is why i’m cutting some slack on his “techniques”).
Profile Image for Amanda Minnock.
201 reviews47 followers
April 2, 2018
I would like to thank Lisa Heathfield & Egmont Publishing for my copy of the ARC. Due to this kind gesture, I have decided to leave a review.

Well, how was the for a plot twist WHAT EVEN!!!!!

Junes home life is not easy, with a stepmother who puts Lady Tremaine to shame she lives to get free from the house. School isn't much better with the taunts from kids and the racial impact is real. Blister, however, comes to make it that little bit easier, to try and take Junes mind away from the horror that is her life.

Ok, so this isn't my sort of book. Yeah, it was not a bad read, I did find myself skimming at parts but for most of it, I enjoyed even if half of it made me squirm and think how can someone be so nasty to a child. You forget that stuff like this goes on and it's a real snapback to reality when you are reading it.

Your whole body aches for June, I just can't take some of it in. Megan must have been scared out her witts also and these are children who really don't know much better and if someone puts the fear in them and no one will listen, how do we expect them to talk?

I loved how you saw June and Blisters relationship blossom, it literally made my heart swell up like a balloon and I just wanted them to stay in their own little private part of their caravan park where June would be safe forever. Blister is the kindest kid ever and you just want to keep him in your pocket forever.

I DID NOT EXPECT THE EVENTS THAT UNRAVELED, kudos Lisa! You caught me off guard, I cried for our June and thought honestly how can someone have so much bad luck?! As the saying goes, if it wasn't for bad luck she would have had no luck at all. I think I would have rathered no luck.

I also like how the story touched on cystic fibrosis as its a disease that has impacted my life through a few friends, one who we unfortunately lost. It brings light to an illness we hardly ever hear about and it brought back some good but sad memories for me.

If you are into mushy, hard upbringing abusive books, this is for you. It's not my usual type but I would give it 2 and a half stars and I am glad that I got the chance to read it.


"'I love you June.' My breath takes in his words."

Profile Image for Natalie TBGWP.
400 reviews23 followers
July 2, 2016
I’m writing this with the biggest lump in my throat, a sore nose from constantly wiping at it, and sticky cheeks from the streams of tears that came down with the heaviness of my heart.

Paper Butterflies is a book I like to call a destroyer. A book so deep, hard to read, depressing, hurtful and horrible that you do nothing but grit your teeth in disgust. At the same time though, it gives you food for thought, it gives you love, and beauty. It gives you friendship, family and solidarity, and it gives you life. So no matter what way you look at it, good or bad, it will destroy you emotionally either way.

Books like this are rare, they are ones that you don’t want to share. That sounds strange doesn’t it? However, you want this book for yourself to love and to keep safe because you think after reading June’s story that you can keep her safe within it with you.

Oh god, this is so hard to write about.

Can I just point out here that I’m not a crier and I don’t hurt easy, so for this book to have me reading with my hand covering my mouth and the tears rolling whilst curled up into a ball, it’s obvious the power it has over you. You think you’ve hit the core and are completely floored by the plot, but no, you are given more and more and there’s no time left and there’s still more. It’s not a detailed long book at all, in fact it reads pretty fast and it moves on quickly with limited detail. So it’s here we see the skill and precision author Lisa Heathfield has with words and being able to create deep moods with them. It’s mesmerising and awful and beautiful and just real, and it’s that that hurts the most.


Profile Image for Alessandra Crivelli.
221 reviews67 followers
May 17, 2017
**full review on the blog will be here soon**

First thing >> trigger warning: child abuse, bullying.


This is sort of a Cinderella retelling: June's mom died and her father re-marries with an awful human being, Kathleen, who has a daughter 1 year younger than June.
The narration is alternated with the "BEFORE" and the "AFTER" parts and I swear you won't ever imagine what is the after part after the actual AFTER!

"Paper Butterflies" can be really hard to read. Some scenes are so hurtful.
Kathleen is such a despicable woman. She tortures June in any way possible since she has 9 years old -- I am sure even before that but the book starts with 9 years old.
She forces June eating dog's food, pee on herself... Or almost suffocate her.
The trigger warnings at the start of this review are so real.
Some parts of this book were so difficult to go through.

This book has to be read. The writing is so good and realistic.
It is also full of hope and forgiveness... Don't even make me talk about the last pages. (Actually I really can't talk about because it would be spoilers.. So, you have to read it!)
There is a big twist that you won't expect it!
OHMYGOD GUYS, you seriously have to read this!
Profile Image for Kelly.
346 reviews30 followers
August 5, 2017
Emotional. Difficult. Harrowing. Hopeful.

All words that can be used to describe this powerful novel from the lovely Lisa Heathfield. Paper Butterflies made me feel irrationally angry and left me feeling broken hearted whilst simultaneously filling me with hope. I think it is safe to say that Lisa Heathfield is a master of pulling on our heart strings whilst dealing with the most sensitive and difficult of topics.

Before picking up my copy of Paper Butterflies, I had been warned by a few of my bookish friends that this book would leave me in tears. Tissues and chocolate were advised as my companions for this story and I am so glad that I took their advice (on the tissues, at least). This is a harrowing story of child abuse and feeling unable to speak out for fear of not being believed. On the other hand it is also a tale of beautiful friendships and finding hope in the darkest of situations.

From the very first pages of this book I truly felt sick to my stomach. There were several occasions when reading about Kathleen’s abuse towards June that I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to read this book. Then I realised how lucky I am to have never been in June’s position and I felt that the least I could do for June and all victims of abuse in the world is endure the words on these pages and read her story. This is by no means an easy read. Kathleen is a horrible creature (I cannot bear to call her a person, I’m afraid) and there were so many occasions where I found tears streaming down my face as I desperately fought the urge to throw the book in anger. How anyone can abuse someone at all, let alone a child, to this extent is completely out of the realms of my imagination and I found it very difficult to understand. Kathleen is written to be so realistic and I could feel my own skin start to crawl when her name was mentioned and I dreaded what was to come next.

Something that pained me more than anything in this story was the fact that as a reader we can see how desperate June is to speak out. She so wants to tell her father or teachers about the abuse she is suffering at home but she is so frightened that nobody will believe her that she doesn’t. This book is very cleverly written to incorporate June’s point of view and it is easy to understand on so many occasions why she eventually chooses not to tell people, I just so wish she had felt able to. This really struck a chord with me as a teacher because I would really honestly like to believe that my pupils would feel able to tell me something like this so that I could help to protect them and it really made me think about how huge a responsibility being a teacher is.

I really loved the structure of this book and the fact we flipped from June’s young life and upwards whilst also fast forwarding to the ‘After’. The big reveal of the ‘After’ was a huge surprise to me. I had no idea it was coming and I definitely wasn’t expecting it. The last few chapters of this book gave me so much to think about and I have to thank Lisa Heathfield for that. She truly brings into question the importance of a victim speaking out and shows that by not speaking out things can get even worse than imaginable. I would hope that reading this book may give encouragement to victims of abuse to feel able to talk to someone, to push past that barrier of fearing they will not be believed and to communicate their pain to someone.

June and Blister. Oh my lovely, lovely Blister. Just as June is struggling to see any light in her life she meets her darling Blister and his enormous, loving family. I adored their friendship and blossoming relationship from the very bottom of my heart. There was something so pure about the way in which they found each other and spent their time together. There are some truly heartbreaking moments between them but Blister truly is a ray of bright, sparkling light in June’s life throughout this book.

Lisa Heathfield is such a strong writer. Not only does she succeed in telling a harrowing but powerful story, she has created characters that as a reader you will deeply care about. There is no way you can come out of this book not having hated Kathleen and fallen in love with June and Blister. This book evoked so much emotion in me that at times I just had to put it to the side and calm myself down. The ending of this book is so well thought out and although I just really want more, I also loved the way in which this was left. I cried for a good half an hour after closing the final pages of this book and I think those tears were a mix of heart break and hope.

Paper Butterflies is a book that I encourage everyone to experience. Whilst it may not be an easy book to read it is certainly one that will stay with me for a very, very long time and has changed something inside of me forever. Phenomenal.
Profile Image for Brooke.
284 reviews141 followers
February 8, 2017

It's been several days & I still can't get these characters out of my mind.
I liked this one better than SEED, but perhaps that was just because I could relate to BUTTERFLIES more. This is one of those books you NEED to read. If you've ever been in the mood to have your entire fiber being completely shattered- look no further.

June is keeping her silence after her father remarries after her mother passes, & her life is turned upside down. Her stepmother & stepsister (Kathleen & Megan) are emotionally & physically abusive to June behind her father's back. The book showcases the years June endures this, as well as attempting to find "a safe adult" to tell what is happening to her. The thoughts that ramble through June's mind while she plans all of this out felt very authentic to me as I had the very same thoughts years ago.

The book also shows the events that led June to believe that such-&-such adult cannot "save" her & she remains silent. She is desperate for her father to find out, but is worried about the repercussions. There are many heartbreaking moments in here; I shredded tears within the first ten pages!! June just wants to be free of the abuse- & the circumstances that lead up to her escape are so sad. You definitely want to pay attention to this one.

And I know the book revolves around June, but can I just say how much I loved Blister? He is just the sweetest! June meets Blister in the woods & they begin a friendship that proves to be crucial especially towards the end when...let's just say June gets something she doesn't deserve. (No pesky spoilers, I'm trying!) Blister is such an amazing character; I would love to see a standalone or something with him, & I rarely say that about anyone.

I also really loved the concept of June forgive herself without becoming overly preachy. This is so important to me in survivor books & Heathfield gets this done right. Overall just such an important book & most recommended. If there's ONE YA book to read this year- it's this one. And although I would love to see more of these characters, I'm not sure if a sequel would be needed, because this is just PERFECT as it is.

I don't think this has been released in the US yet? Or will be later on in the year? If you can, don't wait. I purchased this through Book Depository & it was worth the wait. Highly underrated. Highly worth the purchase.
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,189 reviews1,019 followers
September 28, 2017
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

This book made me cry so hard I almost threw up. This is not an exaggeration. It freaking gutted me. From start to finish. The story is not an easy read. I couldn't put it down because I was so anxious about the outcome, but it isn't the kind of book you'll ever want to read again. I mean that in the best way possible- it's because it will shatter your soul so much the first time around, you'd never need to.

There is a lot of abuse in this book, both emotional and physical, so if that is triggering to you, this may not be the book for you. But if you can handle it, this book has a ton to offer. Things like:

A gorgeous friendship
Some really important and heartbreaking messages that I can't talk about because spoilers
Fabulous writing
A main character who will grab your heart from the start

Overall, it was just gorgeous and it broke my heart.

*Copy provided for review
Profile Image for Kirsty Hanson.
313 reviews55 followers
May 28, 2017
This book has ruined my life. I think I may have read it in about two hours and not once did I get up to get a drink or change reading position. I just lay down and binge-read it. The story of Paper Butterflies will stay with me for a very very long time because of how raw, moving, shocking and emotional it is.

June's life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net.

But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him, she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom... But at what price?

Now, when the blurb says that June has a dark home life, it really does mean it. If you follow me on Goodreads at all, you will know that I commented on my progress about 30 pages in saying how disturbing it was. This book is full of abuse, and it starts pretty much at the very beginning. I was absolutely disgusted by how Kathleen treated June and I felt like I was going to be sick half of the time. I genuinely cried for her and I wanted things to get better. And then June met Blister and she was happy. Blister was like a rock for her over the years but I just wish that June had opened up completely to Blister about her abuse. I know that it's mega mega hard to be open about things like that, but Blister could have really helped her.

June's dad just annoyed me so much. I know that he didn't know the abuse was going on but whenever June tried to tell him that her step-family hated her and that they were mean to her, the Dad just brushed it off and told June to stop being silly. I mean, c'mon! That's just crazy! How can a parent be so careless?! He would tell June all of the time how much he loved her but then didn't even listen to what she was saying. Well done, Dad. Well done.

"Your life is precious. Every day that you're on earth is precious. You have a place. You're wanted."

- Lisa Heathfield, Paper Butterflies

The plot itself was a huge rollercoaster. I can't say too much about the plot because of spoilers but when *that thing* happened to June, I cried for her. I felt like it wasn't fair - even though, it kinda was. But still! I just... ugghhh.... I can't even form words that express how I felt when I was reading it. Another thing that I couldn't wrap my head around was what a certain character was saying about forgiving Kathleen. Ummmm no. I'm sorry, but how can you forgive the person that abused you for years and years?! I just can't understand how anyone could do that, I really don't. I also hated how June was bullied and pretty much tortured because she was the only black member of her family (her deceased mother was black, but her Dad, step-mother and step-sister are white) and she also goes to a predominantly white school where there are just sooooo many vile people who are absolutely horrible towards June and the scenes where June is at school just shows how the school failed her as well as her Dad.

And. That. Ending. WHAT?!! I NEED ANOTHER BOOK. I NEED A BOOK TWO. Because Paper Butterflies just can't end like that, it can't. I won't let it. Lisa, you can't just write an ending like that and expect your readers not to go crazy and want a second book! One of the things that shocked me the most at the end was what Megan said, and again, I can't discuss this because of spoilers, but what she said had me reeling, and it was kind of unbelievable but at the same time, I did believe her. Strange.

Overall, this is probably one of the best books that I have read this year; it really is. There are just so many things about it that make it important, eye-opening and gut-wrenching and I think it's a book that everyone should read. If you're going to read one Young Adult contemporary soon, make it this one and I promise that you won't regret it.

Warning: this book contains triggers for mental and physical abuse, mental illness, and death.

Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Chloe Reads Books.
849 reviews335 followers
August 22, 2021
I read the end of this book on live sprints, and I cried! In front of an audience!!
I don't have any real-life insight into child abuse, so I can't speak on how realistic this was. At the start of the book, I just wanted to scream at June to tell someone, to get help.
I had no idea where this book was going. As soon as the fire happened, it was like a completely different book. Way to change a 2.5/3 star rating to a strong 4.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Trisha.
1,967 reviews104 followers
April 29, 2016
Very confronting story about child abuse. June's narration is equal parts repellent yet fascinating.

Blister's loyalty is extremely uplifting. Doesn't save anybody though. Such a 'what if?' book.

And that ending. Gosh! It's a stunner.

Can't say I actually enjoyed reading it. Cautions abound. Trigger warnings. All the warnings.
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