Review: Butterflies Wake

**Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for a review.**

The premise of the book was what drew me: a female “mafia” out to right the wrongs of society and stand up for those whom the system had failed, those who needed justice but had been denied. So much potential, so little payoff.


The two biggest problems are the ones that plague nearly all newly published authors. First rule of writing: Show, don’t tell. Everything happening to the characters, everything they’re feeling, experiencing, enduring is explained to you; you never get to feel what’s going on with them. Ex: ‘Lexi curls up in the backseat and cries the deepest, saddest cry; the kind of cry you can feel in your bones, the kind of sound people make when a loved one dies.’ And that’s just one of… well, the entire book is like that.

Speaking of, the writing is juvenile. Everyone talks like they’ve got a stick up their butts or it’s the first day of rehearsing a school play. There’s no emotion coming from the pages, no passion, no heart. None of the characters are ever described except in the most generic terms: Callahan is a black female cop. Camille is a 50-something Southern woman. Tommy, Larry, Patrick and Nigel- well, they’re all men. And that’s all you’ll ever get on anyone. Reading it feels like having a textbook narrated to you.

And the argument that it’s a Young Adult book just doesn’t wash. It’s a cop out for lackluster writing. Need I remind you that Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit are both CHILDREN’S BOOKS, written for a much younger audience? Or how about Harry Potter? The difference is those authors didn’t treat the audience they’re trying to reach like they couldn’t read.

The story itself doesn’t hold up well, either. The plot stretches outrageously with convenient and contrived events popping up left and right. Add character’s actions that contradict themselves and it’s all almost a parody of itself, killing the message of female empowerment it’s trying to send. Ex: to ‘help’ a woman being domestically abused, the group plants cameras in her house to record what’s happening. Turns out the woman’s abusing her daughter in turn so they take the video to the bar she works at and play it in front of everyone. Then after she runs out in fear and shame, the Butterflies toss a pamphlet at her and tell her to attend some self-help meetings ‘or else’. Glad they’re on her side lending a helping hand.

Another example is when a black youth is murdered by a white teen as part of a KKK initiation. There’s a couple of twists revealed during the Butterflies’ investigation, so when they finally catch the punk he’s not turned over to the police- oh no! They fly the kid all the way to Africa and plop him into a village so he can learn not to hate black people. Does he? Dunno- cuz we never see him again. So- battered woman gets an extra dose of humiliation while a murderer gets a free trans-Atlantic flight to study abroad. This is what we’re supposed to believe is SOP for the Butterflies, the parts of their credo which state: Protect Thy Neighbor, Relocate the Violent. Must be nice.

And don’t even get me started on the ending. The group is compromised and exposed, leading to a sequence of events that’s utter, absolute fantasy. You just won’t be able to suspend belief that much, but teen readers are supposed to. And that’s what’s the problem.

I went into this book wanting to like it. It simply wouldn’t let me.