Breaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais Review: A sociopath and a sheep

July 17, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Breaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais Review: A sociopath and a sheepBreaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais
Published by Chicken House on April 3, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Young Adult
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The closest he will ever come to happiness is when he's hurting her. Will she let him? A beautiful and twisted story of first love and innocence lost -- written when the author was just eighteen.

Sphinxie and Cadence. Promised to each other in childhood. Drawn together again as teens. Sphinxie is sweet, compassionate, and plain. Cadence is brilliant, charismatic. Damaged. And diseased. When they were kids, he scarred her with a knife. Now, as his illness progresses, he becomes increasingly demanding. She wants to be loyal -- but fears for her life. Only the ultimate sacrifice will give this love an ending.

Reading Breaking Butterflies is akin to sinking into a deep web of intrigue, not being able to tear yourself away but knowing the end result is going to be disastrous. It is an interesting and horrific representation of two children who are inexplicably drawn to each other, one a sociopath, and one an empathetic girl with no self-preservation skills whatsoever.

Two little girls make a lifelong pact that they will be best friends, pursue particular careers, and have two children who will fall in love and get married. This pact will be a frustrating, dogged point of reference throughout the book, as these two girls are now grown adults who are the mothers of Sphinx and Cadence.

You were supposed to get married, said my mother’s broken voice in my head, the memory of her crying on my shoulder in our kitchen swimming, unwanted, to the forefront of my mind.

Cadence has a damaged mind and body, who has been diagnosed as a sociopath and has leukemia. He is terrifying, cold and heartless with an unusual charisma about him, and has suckered Sphinx into his clutches who can’t seem to get away from him. He uses her as a a point of reference for how he should act when it comes to certain situations, like crushing a butterfly between his hands and subsequently crying afterwards. Witnessing Cadence’s complete disconnection to people’s feelings and what is right and wrong was both horrifying and heartbreaking, as he struggles to just feel which seems to come so easily to the people around him.

Throughout the book, Cadence will spiral into his own demise, and Sphinx will be dragged down with him. Sphinx really annoyed me at her character, as she continually makes stupid decisions throughout the book. As a child, Cadence slices her cheek with a knife, and she’s scarred for life. But when Cadence is diagnosed with leukemia, does she stay away? Nope, she goes and sees him one last time and stays with him, despite her parents’ unease, Cadence’s threats, and her own intuition. She does everything Cadence tells her to, and even considers when he asks her to kill herself.

“It would make sense, Sphinx,” he said, in that same whisper. “We both know what’s going to happen to our mothers’ plan. It’s only going to break further. It’d break them, Sphinx, when I’m gone and you’re still here. You’ll be a reminder to both of them just how wrong everything went.” 

Some other conveniences during the book just made me shake my head in disbelief.

  • Sphinx’s dad was really upset when she got hurt the first time when they were a kid, so why would he let her go to him again when they became older? Why would he let her stay there by herself? This is where the stupid pact is brought up to manipulate her mother into letting her stay, come on ladies, it’s time to let it go.
  • When Cadence is diagnosed with leukemia, his mother Leigh does not put him through chemotherapy. Because she wanted to make the limited time he had to live as normal as possible. WHO DOES THIS?
  • Cadence and Sphinx fall through a glass table and hurt themselves badly, where Cadence has a head injury. They don’t call the ambulance because Sphinx doesn’t want her parents to know. So instead, they get into the car and drive to the hospital. Again, WHO DOES THIS? Leigh just sounds like a complete failure of a mother.
  • Sphinx just can’t bring herself to tell Leigh, or her own parents about Cadence’s disturbing and threatening behaviour. Why? Because she’s stupid.


There is no other book I’ve encountered that explores a teenage sociopath as deeply as Breaking Butterflies does, and it was utterly captivating and horrific. Written in a beautiful manner, I can’t believe the author was only 18 when she wrote this. Unfortunately, the illogical conveniences had me make me suspend my disbelief during several moments during the book, making it seem more unrealistic than it needed to be. If you enjoy psychological thrillers though, I recommend you give this a go.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thank you to Scholastic Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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33 responses to “Breaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais Review: A sociopath and a sheep

  1. OddModicum Rachel

    This is going straight on my 'to read' pile…. I'll likely be as distracted as you were by plot holes (and suspension of disbelief is so essential in a truly great book), but the concept of a teenager writing about a sociopathic teen is just too intriguing for me to pass over the title. I had a friend a number of years ago who was an adult 'survivor' of the attentions of an adolescent sociopath in her youth. She was utterly traumatized by her adolescence shared with a sociopathic sibling who had a sick psycho-sexual obsession with her. My friend was adopted… her sociopathic 'brother' was not. The adoptive parents were utterly useless and made no effort to protect her from their 'real' child. It was just a tragic scenario that shaped every aspect of her personality. Having known this girl gives me excellent motivation to delve deeper into this world, and 'Breaking Butterflies' seems like a bittersweet opportunity to do so. Thanks for a fabulously comprehensive review, and I found your 'Sociopath and a Sheep' tagline rather brilliant.

    OddModicum Rachel

  2. Oh yes, I just love psychological thrillers, provided they aren't too confusing. The book was really fascinating and unique and twisted, definitely worth reading, even with a few conveniences.

  3. I love a good psychological thriller but I really need it to have a properly crafted plot. Conveniences just take away from the overall joy of reading it. I like the webs and the mind blowing bombshells. But even so, this book sounds pretty good. Especially for an author who wrote this book at 18. It think it's amazing because since she's young, she can really understand the mind of a teenager. I'm probably not going to jump on this book but I'll read it one day. 😀
    Laura Plus Books recently posted…Stacking The Shelves #40: Upside of Glass SinnersMy Profile

  4. Oh my gosh Nick, it was so compelling and intense, just now flipping through the book made me freaked out all over again. It does happen in real life, so it's kind of a destructive, sickening relationship.

  5. This sounds like a really interesting book, but I'm not sure I'll want to read it. The whole no-treatment for leukemia?? What if the chemo would save his life, how could you take that chance from someone, even a sociopath? There are stages and types of cancer when chemo is not likely to help, but is that explained in the book? I'm confused now…

    Thanks for your fantastic and honest review as always, Jeann!
    Pili recently posted…First Chapter, First Paragraph #3: ARC of Crushed by Eliza Crewe!!My Profile

    • They actually didn't talk about the illness too much, only in the sense that he had a year to live and they decided to keep him out of treatment because they wanted him to have a normal life. Kinda crazy huh!

  6. This cover is really pretty imo. I don't like any insects and butterflies either (weird, I know!), but this one is gorgeous! LOL! Your first paragraph made my eyes huge but holy bullocks! It sounds so awesome. In a really, really creepy way. Oh gosh, these two scream disaster! O____O Stupid decision, nooo. OMG HE ASKS HER WHAT? O____________________________O LE GASP SRSLY. Oh, no! His mom does what? No 🙁 I guess it depends on what stage his cancer is, but still. Oh gawd, no. Eh. Ok, so frustrating things aside, this sounds too awesome! I'm sorry you didn't find it amazing, but boy, this sounds like a rollercoaster. Great review, Jeann!!
    Siiri recently posted…Review: Tempest by Julie CrossMy Profile

  7. I really love psychological thrillers because they keep me guessing all the time. I love the idea that Cadence was well developed as a psycopath, but at the same time kind of disappointed in Sphinx because she sounds kind of… dumb. She makes questionable choices. Lol. Great review!
    Marianne recently posted…The Distance Between Us by Kasie WestMy Profile

  8. I've heard so many conflicting reviews on this one, but it sounds really dark and almost disturbing in a way. I'm glad that it was well-done though! The writing sounds really gorgeous, and the depth in the physiology is something that will probably fascinate me.

    Although, it's a shame that it made you have to suspend some disbelief at some points. I mean, a parent not wanting their child to go through chemo when they're diagnosed with cancer? I doubt that any parent would do that!

    Nonetheless, I'm intrigued! Thanks for sharing, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3
    Zoe @ The Infinite T recently posted…The MercilessMy Profile

  9. I saw this up on NG and I read the blurb and it made me incredibly uncomfortable. I knew that I would have a hard time stomaching both the sociopath's character and the victim. I knew I was going to be incredibly frustrated and your review just confirmed that, Jeann. It's hard for people who aren't in such relationships to understand why people like Sphinx still remain friends with people like Cadence despite them being awful, violent and so destructive, but unfortunately it happens in real life.

    Thanks for the well-balanced review, Jeann!
    Nick @ Nick's B recently posted…Review : What I Thought Was True by Huntley FitzpatrickMy Profile

  10. This one sounds really intense. Although you didn't love it completely, the information you gave about the book is just enough to make me want to read it–if only because the exploration of the sociopath in the novel is unlike anything I have encountered thus far. Thanks for the great review!

  11. To be honest…this one scared me a lot. I just…you're so right about Sphinx's parents. They were really just…what?! And same with Cadence's mother. Like did NO ONE care about Sphinx's mental and physical wellbeing? Cadence was bullying her, both physically like cutting her with that knife, but also in a scary ownership kind of way. I know Sphinx was being kind staying with him and everything…but I felt so depressed with the whole story at the end, because I don't even think Cadence responded at all to her. 😐 It felt like a waste. I didn't like this one, unfortunately.
    Cait @ Notebook Sist recently posted…The Best Books 2014 Has Thrown At UsMy Profile

    • I can totally see why you didn't like it Cait, even though it intrigued me so much it was so, so scary with the way Sphinx just wanted to sacrifice everything just to help him, and then it just made him more sure of his control over her. It was abuse wasn't it? *shudders*

  12. Those conveniences tho.

    I've seen a handful of reviews for this and so far, I am going to stay far far away. It sounds really scary to be honest. Like I cannot imagine how horrifying the reading experience must have been when you imagine this girl who has no sense of self preservation and parents who are way too stupid to actually care for their child… throw in a sociopath and wow.

    Both sets of parents seem pretty stupid TBH. Like not sending your kid to chemo therapy? To something that might actually save his life? Yeah… not so smart.

    And 1 in 5 people are sociopaths??? WOW. Can you imagine what life would be like if that many people were sociopaths??? I googled it and the stats (apparently) are 1 in 25 people.. and that makes a lot more sense.

    Lovely review, Jeann and I am glad you were able to enjoy this book in spite of everything!! 🙂
    Rashika recently posted…ARC Review: One Past Midnight by Jessica ShirvingtonMy Profile

    • Actually, I double checked the novel and it does say 1 in 25, I can't believe that is realistic o_o I've taken that bit out of my review lol. It just seemed so silly and those conveniences, like every single time just for the sake of the story I just had to suspend my disbelief. And when you do it too many times, it's just no. Thanks Rashika! It's a shame because it was such a different story!

  13. There are definitely flaws with this book, and with Sphinx, but what suspended my disbelief was the fact that there ARE people like Sphinx. Even though I didn't like her much as a character, there was a truth to her that was disturbing but captivating (to me, anyway). And it was so chilling when Cadence hinted he wanted her to die with him…*shudders* I don't think it'll be easy to forget this book, that's for sure.
    Emily @ The Loony Te recently posted…The Mead Sisters Review Broken Strings by Maria FarrerMy Profile

    • It was really disturbing isn't it, and you know, there probably are which makes it SO creepy. She even considered it when Cadence said that! Aggh I just wanted to reach into the book and smack her upside the head.

  14. I definitely am a fan of YA psychological thrillers, and this one looks pre-tty interesting (and that cover looks fantastic). If there is too much that is illogical or unrealistic about it, then it does make me a little wary to read it, but I still might give it a go just to see how everything plays out.
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