A review by raeanne
The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison


I won a free giveaway paperback copy from The Reading Teen

3.5 stars: For Lo, for being different, and the mystery that was alright at first.

If you’re looking for a mystery, I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you love YA with different characters dealing with issues, I can definitely recommend The Butterfly Clues. But it’s not for everyone. Others found Lo’s OCD tics and perspective too annoying.

I loved it. Lo’s so well done. The writing is wonderful. I felt her anxiety when numbers went wrong, when people noticed, and her obsessive need to complete her rituals. (It might help that I have anxiety and depression?)


Her habits do come up often but it’s necessary since her OCD is severe. Culling it would make it more mainstream but loose it’s charm, it’s reality.

Her OCD isn’t useful like Monk’s, it’s not a gift and a curse that helps with the case. There’s nothing magical or a silver lining. Lo’s whole life is adversely affected by it. It and her problems coping with Owen’s death, lead her to obsess over Sapphire and that’s all.

Her perspective is skewed as it should be. I enjoy these type of narrators because they seem more real. It’s hard to call her an unreliable narrator though because it sounds bad, it’s not intentional, and it’d be wrong if it wasn’t.

For people like Lo struggling with personal issues like self-esteem and mental health, it doesn’t sit right calling her an unreliable narrator. It’s her world as she knows it.

Hell, most people aren’t reliable narrators simply because we’re human and how the brain functions. Just like dialogue, storytelling narrators are cleaned up to make the book work.


The realizations toward the end really show case it and how her journey has helped her. It pays off and I find it beautiful.

But it’s not about “fixing” her OCD. I HATE cop out endings like that. Instead, she matures as a person and feels more confident in herself. There’s still more to work on and cope with but there’s a more positive outlook.


Q: Why didn’t they get Owen’s mole removed if it bothered him so much? *shrug*
It’s clear Owen held the family together and her parents fell apart afterwards. It’s typical and gives Lo the freedom to act on her own like every other YA. Their background noise to Lo’s story at this point.

Her memories revolve around Owen and their family but there’s not much. Her dad is an ass and her mother was accepting and helpful. I kind of want a better picture, but not really.

I do wonder why Lo said it was his death caused all the problems when it seems like they should’ve been struggling already. It makes sense to be the last straw but I’d expect more turmoil considering his downward spiral.


This doesn’t play as big a role as most YAs. Lo’s afraid of being noticed and called out as a freak so she flies under the radar and dashes out.

While there is some drama involved, I didn’t care for it. It does show how Lo sees herself and how it’s different than what others see but I think it could’ve been much shorter and tighter.

Especially the part about the boy. It’s pointless and who the fuck just goes wandering inside rooms in other people’s houses?! It adds a subtext of “normal stick with normals” which was uncomfortable. Same with the girl drama really.


It’s not even a good red herring or engaging, except for seeing Lo navigate. I cannot stress how important it is to like and enjoy Lo’s narration.

Flynt & Their Relationship:


The second best thing after Lo, was Flynt and their relationship. It’s weird going for the insta-love duo rather than the mystery, but it’s the truth. Not only that, he’s a manic pixie boy who helps Lo feel free. What is happening to me?!?!

But I love how accepting he is. I’ve been a homeless teen and while these kids were more artistic than my experience, it’s not wrong. There’s always chill spots, systems in check, ways to get stuff, money, and survive.

The only problem that I couldn’t believe is the smell. Showering and getting laundry is a huge problem and there didn’t seem to be any way for Flynt and the others to get it done. Plus, Flynt smelling like grass? Nope. Of all the smells, there’s no way he smelt like grass when there’s no fucking grass around.



Besides that, everything in Neverland is pretty grounded including the strippers. They help each other out. While a few have issues, it’s not the “ghetto catty” bullshit from pop media.

Sure, Sapphire’s the heart of gold one but it’s not unusual. There’s usually at least one of those in each group. Neither is not doing “extras”. That’s far less common than people think. She may come off as shiny but it’s not like we get to know her fully, just broad strokes.

I can’t say much beyond that since I don’t know Cleveland. But undergrounds are the same dish with different regional spices.

The Murder Mystery
…is less than average. It’s a vehicle for Lo’s progress as a person, which is the central draw and focus. If you look at the mystery without her perspective, it falls apart.

It fairs better if you like Cozy mysteries and look at it that way: amateur sleuth, conveniences that make it possible, and family drama. Loving Lo really helped, TBH and I enjoy cozy mysteries occasionally. If you don’t, it’s another consideration before reading.


It does well with getting the cops right. For these neighborhoods and people, cops are not friends. They’re assumptive assholes who write people off.

Except for getting the warrant at the end. How did that work? What evidence? Don’t buy it, which leads to the conclusion which is also disappointing. There wasn’t any reason to wait. It’d be radically different if they didn’t fuck around. At least give them cause to do so!
I can accept the coincidences but those two things ended the murder mystery with a sigh.


The Ending:

After that, we get the personal wrap up. That worked for me except for her father’s reaction, especially to Flynt. Maybe he had an epiphany but considering his actions before, I have a hard time accepting it. I might also have a problem with asshole fathers.

School drama gets solved. Family makes some progress and there’s reason to hope. Lo and Flynt’s ending is sweet. But I wish I knew more about Lo and her plans for the future. The Butterfly Clues isn’t about that, which is refreshing in own way, but I’d feel better with it. I became really attached to Lo. The ending made me realize she’s almost 18, so now what?!?