Published by Chicken House on April 3, 2014
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.