Friday, February 24, 2012
A Compulsion of Clues
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is something we all joke about having at times, but none of us really understand the extent of its control over its victims. The need to tap, count, and pay homage to rituals can be completely debilitating, and very few people understand it completely. Kate Ellison's breakout novel The Butterfly Clues explores the life of a girl who is consumed by her compulsions until the murder of a young girl in the wrong part of town becomes her biggest obsession.
Lo (short for Penelope), taps, counts, and believes in the power of numbers, not because she chooses to, but because she has to. She survives life by just getting by and trying to blend in, not letting many people know the true nature of her needs and compulsions. When a young stripper is murdered right in front of Lo, she feels a connection to the girl and a compulsion to find the murderer. Along her path, she can't help but think of her own brother who succumbed to drugs on the very streets the stripper, Sapphire, met her grizzly end.
As Lo gets deeper into the case, she meets a young homeless guy named Flynt who agrees to help her traverse the mean streets of Neverland. She finds herself in the crosshairs of the killer and despite the warnings and attacks on other people involved in Sapphire's life, Lo can't stop herself from finding redemption for the stripper she had never met. She knows there is more to the story than the police care to investigate, and she refuses to stop hunting until she finds the truth. What she fails to recognize, however, is that the people involved will do anything to keep the truth from coming to the surface.
I struggled with this book a little at the beginning. Vital information was withheld from the reader until a good 1/3 of the way through the book, like what was going on with her brother and her compulsions. I don't think all of it needed to be kept so secret for as long as it did since it was vital to the character development of Lo and the understanding of the purpose behind the story. That being said, once I understood this important background information, the story became really interesting. It opened up and I was able to get invested in Lo's quirky character. The intertwined story of Lo's brother and Sapphire was one that adds something unique and wonderful to the mystery. It truly is the story of a girl who nobody understands finding someone who doesn't care why she is different but loves her differences unconditionally.
This is a mature story not for graphic sexual content (although Sapphire is a stripper and Lo goes to the strip club a few times to investigate). I think it is a mature book due to the complexity of Lo's character and how she interacts with the people in her life and the world around her. An immature reader will lose themselves in her eccentricities and not get to the heart of a girl with a disorder she cannot control. Also, the confusion at the beginning of the story might lose a weaker reader where a strong reader could barrel through it in order to get to the heart of this interesting story. I really loved Ellison's characters and look forward to seeing more from her. And don't forget, Kate Ellison and Lauren Oliver will be at Oblong Books and Music in Rhinebeck for the Hudson Valley YA Society event on March 2, 2012 at 6pm! I will be there... will you?!