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The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

February 9, 2022

Penelope (Lo), is a teenage girl with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), who has always loved to collect beautiful things. When she finds a antique butterfly from a house of a recently murdered girl named Sapphire, a young stripper, she attempts to piece together the clues left behind. With a dead brother whose death still haunts her and a father who is never home, Lo finds herself alone, and solving the mystery of who killed Sapphire seems impossible. However, with the help of an artist named Flynt, they realize that the answer was closer to home than imagined.  

The Butterfly Clues is an excellent, exciting novel because of how quickly the plot takes off. Readers will find themselves wanting to read more because every time the plot starts to slow, it picks up again. Ellison beautifully describes the characteristics of OCD and takes a convincing and intriguing approach toward how someone dealing with a disorder acts and how they think and process information. Readers will notice that Lo is drawn to multiples of three. For example: if there were nine birds on a telephone pole, Lo would think that means luck. Also, readers will notice early on that  the word “banana” gives Lo a sense of security. Ellison places  a large amount of attention to detail on that specifically.

The Butterfly Clues is a novel written in first person from the perspective of Lo, which allows readers to follow along with her emotions. The plot has huge turns in it that readers will find unexpected and, after the book is finished, will provide a whole different perspective on Lo’s life and the journey it took to uncover the answers. The book takes place in Cleveland, Ohio, which gives it the big-city, lots-of-crime feel, especially since the book is set in “Neverland,” the more dangerous side of town where you don’t want to end up at night. Readers will also discover how close the community is there, but also how if you really want to find answers, it could mean death.

Ellison uses strong, sensory diction throughout the book as she describes the way people act and the violence in this world.

This novel gives the reader an insight into OCD, which is something I didn’t previously know about. It may seem that Lo is controlled by her disorder and therefore an unreliable protagonist, but without her disorder she would not have found the butterfly because her OCD gives her an urge to steal antique things. Without that, she would have not even met Flynt, and the book would be terrible—maybe not even a book at all.

Ellison also teaches the reader about friendship, independence, and death. The pace was perfect and the chapters were somewhat long but had lots of pauses in the middle, which is something the reader will be grateful for.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes mystery, suspense, or friendship. I would also recommend The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson or Red Rider, which was another recent book by Ellison. I rated this story a ten out of ten and loved reading it.

This book made me want to read more of Ellisons novels, and I am planning to.

The Butterfly Clues draws readers in, and each word captivates you into reading more. If you read this novel, you will not be left disappointed.


EGMONT, 325 pages 

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