Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Pub date: February 4, 2012.

Author website.

Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place--possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.

But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"--a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.

As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues," with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined--a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death.

Initially I thought the premise sounded really interesting, bit of a crime element going on. But as soon as I started reading and it was made obvious that Lo had OCD, I was immediately thrown. Based on the blurb, I'd never guess that she had any kind of disorder. There's a hint of hoarding but that could be taken as hyperbole. It turns out it's not. Lo is OCD of the counting variety that's a kleptomaniac. In terms of Lo, the blurb is kind of misleading and it really threw me for a loop. Especially because I'm not all that sympathetic to this particular kind of OCD. I understand it's a means of her being able to control her own life and all of that but I just can't relate. Seeing as how I'm someone that was budding on this kind of thing, and it's something I still fight with, and I'm able to JUST EFFING STOP, I find it hard that others can't. And it's one of the reasons why I never got into the TV show Monk. I just don't find that behavior endearing and I can't sympathize. I would have stopped reading but I needed something to fill my time at work.

Lo, I've come to the conclusion, is just not that nice of a person. She ran across some token popular bitches at the end of the story (who appeared to be thrown in there for no apparent reason other than because it fit the scene) but everyone that tried to be nice to her she shunned. She pushed everyone away, and at times rudely. So when people turned on her I didn't feel much. That's what happens when you're an ass. Yeah, she has family issues. She has parents that either barely realize she's alive or aren't sympathetic to her problems (anymore). But that's not an excuse to be a jerk to someone that's trying to be nice, especially when you're the social outcast. No one had ulterior motives, nothing. They were just genuinely nice people. And Lo judged them in the same way she thought they judged her and shoved them aside. I couldn't get in on that at all.

And then there was her OCD. Aside from the fact that I find this particular version of OCD annoying at best, I felt it was inconsistent and at times used to suit the moment as opposed to it being genuine. I didn't understand Lo's urges to steal or count. Considering there's absolutely no logic or rationale behind that need to count for "safety" I kept wanting to scream JUST FUCKING STOP at the book. Not good in a work setting. She knew she shouldn't be doing it, she flushed every time she did and yet it kept happening. And her stealing, she didn't feel any kind of shame or guilt when she did that. She had a need to fill that went above and beyond everything else and it just HAD to be done. No, sorry. You're a criminal with a room full of evidence. Eventually I started sympathizing with her dad. Yeah, I can totally see how that would be frustrating to watch and then see what his daughter was living in. While I didn't agree with his methods (berating her and screaming at her obviously won't help), I can understand it. I don't know if I was supposed to find him a jerk for not being more understanding of his daughter but quite frankly that's a tick that should have been crushed on when she first starting showing signs, not enabled.

Flynt was okay but he ended up serving his purpose as a deus ex machina in the end, which was disappointing. I really didn't feel one way or another about his character. He didn't really make an impression on me.

The overall story I didn't mind. I thought Lo was a fucking idiot for continuously putting herself in danger to solve a crime but good things did come of it, I guess. I liked the connection of it all to her brother and how those plot lines ended up intersecting. I felt the cops involved were a little too TV drama and again, when Lo tried to go for help, I didn't sympathize with her but the cops. It was probably supposed to be the other way around but if a kid comes in telling wild tales, looking like a hooker and can't formulate sentences coherently in an area where kids like this are normal, what else are you going to think? The suspense at the end was fueled by a major contrivance in Lo's OCD issue that I found absolutely unbelievable (while being chased by the murderer she just had the NEED to stop and count, seriously?) but that doesn't mean I wasn't happy to see it resolved. There were a few tears there because, ultimately, I am a sap and while by all matters of logic Lo should have been killed a couple times over, I did like the way it ended. Hope. Sometimes that's all that's needed.

So really my major issue with THE BUTTERFLY CLUES was Lo. Considering it's first person and her story, it's a pretty major issue. I didn't like her, I couldn't sympathize with her OCD and I felt too much of what she did was nonsensical. It served a purpose, it got the job done when everyone else had given up (which in and of itself is a good story) but she made a lot of dumb moves and the storyline deviated from reality in order to accommodate those moves. I can see how a lot of people would sympathize with Lo because she does have a genuine problem and no one to really help her, even if it's just to say, "sweetie, thinking tapping is going to save you is just plain illogical." She is very much alone and I think if she didn't have the OCD I would be more inclined to like her. But I felt it was such a huge detriment to her personality. It was used to explain away her douchiness to other people, her irrational actions, her illogical train of thought. But she's a character fighting for something bigger than herself. There is a girl forgotten, like Oren, who needs closure. She needs to do it because it's something her brother never had and she carries that guilt. That I get and that I liked. There was just too much of Lo getting in the way, in my opinion, for me to fully enjoy the suspense like I think I would have otherwise.

Ban Factor: High - A teenaged girl dressing like a stripper? Yeah, that sounds about right. Not to mention mental illness. For some reason the banners don't like that either.
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