Book review: The Butterfly Shell by Maureen White. @OBrienPress


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Butterfly shell book review

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Thank you to The O'Brien Press for sending the review copy

“There are some things about me you should know:

I always wear my butterfly shell – even when I’m swimming or sleeping

I don’t hurt myself anymore

I believe in ghosts.”

It all started on the first day of the first year of secondary school for Marie. Starting secondary school can be a daunting time for most people. Even the ones that adjust well. It’s a time of big changes: a new school, new teachers, new friends…and new enemies. You’re no longer deemed a child but you don’t feel like an adult either.

At the same time she is dealing with a haunting presence at home. She finds a box full of letters from her mother to a baby sister who died before birth. Poor Marie is haunted by her cries at night.

The trouble starts with the stupid six, a group of self-proclaiming popular girls who decide what is and isn’t cool. They decide that Marie (or other Marie as they so lovingly call her) is unworthy of their company because she doesn’t have the right pencil case or a face full of makeup.

Against all the odds, she does manage to make a friend in the form of Stella, who’s also deemed an oddball and an outcast. I couldn’t help but love Stella. She has a tick similar to Brick in The Middle. She whispers the last word of every sentence. She is unphased by the stupid six and is a good friend to Marie through thick and thin.

A lot of common teenage themes appear in The Butterfly Shell: change, family, bullying and self-harm. It highlights the importance of friendship and more importantly, how we need to treasure these friendships. Marie’s treatment of Stella isn’t always ideal but Stella stuck by her anyway.

I would be a little hesitant to give this book to a really young reader because of the self-harm but that’s a story for another day.

The writing in The Butterfly Shell is a little unusual. It’s written from the perspective of a 12/13 year old so the sentences tend to be either stunted or overly long. It took a while to get used to but after that it really added to the overall effect.

The Butterfly Shell is a wonderful read. I shuddered as I remembered those anxiety ridden school days but I also smile in remembrance of those wonderful friends that helped make it easier. This is a book full of authentic and relatable characters.

I know this book is aimed at young teens but I’m nearer to thirty and I still enjoyed it. It would be a great book to read with a teen or pre-teen and then have a discussion about the issues raised.


★ ★★★★

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