June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. Not even her dad knows the truth, and she can’t find the words to tell anyone else. She’s trapped like a butterfly in a net. Then June meets Blister, a boy from a large, loving, chaotic family. In him, she finds a glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away. Because she deserves her freedom. Doesn’t she?
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Abuse
Booklist (October 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. June narrates her story from the ages of 10 to 24, detailing the brutal physical and psychological abuse she suffers at the hands of her stepmother, Kathleen, and stepsister, Megan. From forcing her to overeat to convincing June that she and her deceased mother are worthless because they are black, Kathleen and Megan torture June every time her white father’s back is turned. Afraid to say anything about the abuse to her father or teachers, June finds solace in Blister, a homeschooled boy from a large family, with whom she starts to fall in love. June’s story is all the more heartbreaking because her visceral account, though fiction, is undoubtedly a reality for children suffering from abuse behind closed doors. The narrative derails considerably when an event near the end of the tale effectively forces June to internalize the idea that her silence—as a victim—is to blame. Despite a heavy-handed delivery, this novel, a 2017 Carnegie Medal nominee in Great Britain, manages to end on a hopeful note.
Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
Can the Guardian and Britain’s CILIP Carnegie Children’s Book Awards be wrong? Not that this lauded and nominated book by author Heathfield isn’t harrowing. It’s the 14-year–spanning story of June Kingston, a mixed-race black girl whose white stepmother, Kathleen, continually racially denigrates June and her dead mother, Loretta, who was black. It is a catalog of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse from Kathleen, abetted by June’s stepsister, Megan, and enabled by the obliviousness of June’s white father. And yes, June’s preteen friend and eventual boyfriend, Blister Wicks, a poor, creative white boy, unwaveringly supports her throughout. In chapters labeled “before” readers see the unrelenting misery of June’s life, while briefer, intermittent chapters labeled “after” take them to a time after an unspecified trauma. When that reveal comes, readers may well feel sucker-punched at its disingenuousness, as the author writes around the most obvious aspect of this story. June’s abuse at home, bullying and neglect at school, and what happens after are specifically misogynoirist, or anti–black female, thrown into high relief due to the lack of any other living characters of color in June’s story. This is a disservice to readers, especially considering such works and resources as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Ava DuVernay’s 13th, and African American Policy Forum, a pro–Black-women-and-girls advocacy organization. What’s left for readers from this lack of nuance is the glaring voyeurism. Interracial love—and racial silence—simply aren’t enough. (Fiction. 14-adult)
About the Author
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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