Sunday, September 4, 2016

When A Book Takes You By Complete Surprise | The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes

I was excited to read this one because I loved Anatomy of a Misfit and was eager to read another book by Andrea Portes. The Fall of Butterflies started out pretty rocky, but my appreciation and enjoyment grew as the story went on and . . . broke out of the cocoon as a pretty butterfly? I don't know. Forget I tried to by punny. 

*I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Willa Parker, 646th and least popular resident of What Cheer, Iowa, is headed east to start a new life.

Did she choose this new life? No, because that would be too easy—and nothing in Willa’s life is easy. It’s her famous genius mother’s idea to send her to ultra-expensive, ultra-exclusive Pembroke Prep, and it’s only the strength of her name that got Willa accepted in the first place.

But Willa has no intentions of fitting in at Pembroke. She’s not staying long, she decides. Not at this school—and not on this planet. But when she meets peculiar, glittering Remy Taft, the richest, most mysterious girl on campus, she starts to see a foothold in this foreign world—a place where she could maybe, possibly, sort of fit.

When Willa looks at Remy, she sees a girl who has everything. But for Remy, having everything comes at a price. And as she spirals out of control, Willa can feel her spinning right out of her grasp.

In Willa’s secret heart, all she’s ever wanted is to belong. But if Remy, the girl who gave her this world, is slip-sliding away, is Willa meant to follow her down?

Andrea Portes’s incandescent, heartfelt novel explores the meaning of friendship, new beginnings, and the precarious joy and devastating pain of finding home in a place—a person—with wings. 

*Released May 10th 2016 from HarperTeen*

I have to laugh at myself. My first impression of this book was bad, but then as I got further and further into it, I slowly warmed up to it and started really liking it, though it still wasn't proving to be a great book. Then the ending blew me away and left me on that sort of happy cloud that I get to visit after reading really good books. A happy reading cloud? Is that what I should call it?

I went from almost DNFing this to being wowed and I just have to laugh at the change. In a way, that made me even happier at the end because oh man, do I love a book that surprises me!

The first couple chapters opens the book in an interesting way. The plot takes awhile to really start because there's this chunk where you're stuck in Willa's head as she just talks and talks and talks about both random and pertinent stuff. It was tough for me to get through because I just wanted her to GET TO THE POINT ALREADY. Once she befriends Remy, the plot picks up and more dialogue is added in. I do think it was important to show how random Willa could get--tangents, so many tangents--and to show how her thought process worked, but that didn't make me any less annoyed with her narrative in the beginning. I guess the "stream of consciousness" type of writing can be a hit or miss for me. It eventually worked for me, but I did get very close to DNFing before that happened.

What I did always like about her POV was that she speaks directly to you, the reader. It's like those moments when comic books break the fourt
h wall or whatever (I don't really know much about it.) For example, there's a moment where she says how you are probably expecting the story to go a certain way, one that would typically happen in a movie; then she goes on to point out that things don't always work out that way or wrap up as cleanly as that.

The story is a very dark-underbelly-of-the-young-and-rich type of thing. This girl from Iowa--apparently that just means she's from nowhere??--catches the attention of another girl whose mere presence seems to inspire awe from everyone around her. Girl-from-Iowa clings to this new and exciting friendship and feels oh so lucky and happier, but then the awe-inspiring girl says "hey, you want to know my dark secret" and starts showing all her cracks and faults as she introduces girl-from-Iowa to a rich, yet empty way of living. Okay, there's much more to it than that. Think of The Great Gatsby. It's like that. There's even a reference to the author, so I must be right with this comparison. Right?

This book examines differences between small-town, middle-of-nowhere life and the big, ritzy, this-city-is-on-the-map sort of life, though more complicated than that. Willa is thrust into this new life and surrounded by people that use her Iowa background as a joke. (Oh, there's Iowa farm girl. That sort of thing.) They're the kind of people that are very privileged, but can't seem to be satisfied or happy with what they have. Part of Willa wants to be just like them, to be worthy of them, which is probably why she was so willing to do some things she normally wouldn't have done. At the same time, it's shown that this "cultural difference" (as described by Milo) makes a feeble excuse, like a way to point out bad behavior as something normal and therefore, totally understandable. (It's not.) I really liked how the author dealt with these differences between Willa and the other characters. It's a big reason my mind changed so much about this book!

Also, I got this subtle "be grateful for what you have" message and I adored that!

As I got further into this book, I gained more appreciation for it. I got used to the writing and even started liking the fact that it was written that stream of conscious style (dialogue seriously helped). This isn't a simple book. Early on, I thought I had the book figured out. I thought I knew what type of plot it would continue to have and how the characters would affect one another. But I was surprised! This book takes some turns that I wasn't expecting, turns that felt a bit refreshing. The themes are more complicated than I initially thought. Even though I felt a bit too distanced from the story and didn't find everything executed as strongly as they could have, I really liked how the book snuck up on me and convinced me to like it.

I also really liked how this book seemed to have many layers, which is reminding me of Anatomy of a Misfit. Both have this more-than-meets-the-eye (or more-than-initially-expected) quality to them that turns me into a very happy reader. (Again with the happy reading cloud.) Also, both are told in a way that makes them feel different from other books with similar stories and focusing on similar topics.

And oh my, the ENDING. I have this urge to frame it because I loved the thoughts Willa closed her narrative with. It also made me realize just how much my mind had changed about the book. I never did feel connected to the characters, but I liked everything else more with time.

Overall, The Fall of Butterflies provides a very interesting reading experience. I hesitate to recommend it because the experience can easily turn out more bad than good, but I still think more people should read it. I started out annoyed that the character wouldn't just get to the point, which is funny because now I'm loving that this book wasn't so straightforward. I don't think I would've read it in one day--while practically glued to Kindle--or would've written this lengthy (oh god, I'm like Willa) of a review if it just got to the point. It boggles that my mind that I grew to like the book so much, but I'm so, so happy that it did.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Discussion Prompt
I actually have a two different prompts today!

1) If a book starts out very rocky and you're not into the characters or writing, what would usually change your mind and make you really, really like the book by the time you finish it?

2) Books that have many layers tend to leave me on the "happy reading cloud." What's something that makes you feel super happy when you're reading?

Happy Reading! ~ Kaitlin ☺

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